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 515: Not on my watch.

1/ Hundreds of children separated from their parents are living inside cages in an old warehouse in south Texas while they wait to be turned over to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. The cages were described as the the type you'd see at a batting cage or a dog kennel. More than 1,100 people are being held inside the facility, which is divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, solo adults, and mothers and fathers with children. (Associated Press / NBC News)

  • Ann Coulter called the children crying at the border after being separated from parents "child actors." Trump Jr., meanwhile, liked a Breitbart tweet that quoted Coulter, who said the separated children had been "coached" by liberals and "given scripts to read." (The Hill / Newsweek)

  • Audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility captures a Border Patrol agent joking above crying children: "Well, we have an orchestra here. What's missing is a conductor." (ProPublica)

2/ Lawmakers from both parties demanded that Trump stop his policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Republican lawmakers, Laura Bush, a conservative newspaper, and a former Trump adviser joined with Democrats in condemning the policy that has removed nearly 2,000 children from their parents over the last six weeks. Melania Trump, meanwhile, placed the blame on "both sides," saying that she "hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together." (New York Times)

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will not deploy National Guard troops from his state to the U.S.-Mexico border, citing the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy as justification for the move. (The Hill)

  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker canceled the deployment of the state's National Guard troops to the border, "because the federal government's current actions are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children." (WGBH)

  • Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order barring state resources from being used for the purpose of separating children from their families for violating federal immigration law. (ABC News)

  • All four living former first ladies condemn Trump's border policy. (NBC News)

  • Jeb Bush called on Trump to end the "heartless policy" of separating parents and children who cross the U.S. border illegally, saying "children shouldn't be used as a negotiating tool." (Politico)

3/ The White House continued to falsely blame Democrats for the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant children from their families. The separations stem from Jeff Sessions' "zero-tolerance" policy announced last month. Via tweet, Trump blamed Democrats for being "weak and ineffective with Border Security and Crime" while urging them to agree to immigration legislation and to fund his border wall. Trump added that "the United States will not be a migrant camp… not on my watch." (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration's immigration policy, saying "we will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does for doing the job that the American people expect us to do." Nielsen added: "Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get out of jail free cards." (CNN)

4/ The United Nations' top human rights official called for the U.S. to immediately stop separating children from their families at the border. Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein condemned the practice as "government-sanctioned child abuse," saying "the thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable." Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called al-Hussein's statement hypocritical, saying that "neither the United Nations nor anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders." (New York Times / The Hill)

5/ Trump warned that the U.S. must avoid Europe's immigration problems, falsely claiming that "crime in Germany is way up." The opposite, however, is true. Germany's crime rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1992. (New York Times / Vox)

6/ The Trump administration thought its zero-tolerance policy would deter immigrants from trying to enter the country illegally. Instead, internal Department of Homeland Security documents show a 5% uptick in the number of people caught crossing the border illegally since April, when Jeff Sessions' policy was announced. (CNN)

7/ White House policy adviser Stephen Miller said the Trump administration is planning additional immigration crackdowns before the midterm elections. Miller and officials from the Justice Department, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget have been meeting for months to find ways to use executive authority and rule changes to strengthen hard-line U.S. immigration policies. (Politico)

8/ Peter Strzok said he would be willing to testify without immunity and without invoking the 5th Amendment before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee. Strzok was removed from Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts. Strzok's lawyer said: "He thinks that his position, character and actions have all been misrepresented and caricatured, and he wants an opportunity to remedy that." Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that Strzok was a "sick loser." (Washington Post / CNN)

9/ Roger Stone met during the 2016 campaign with a Russian national who wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the political dirt on Hillary Clinton. Stone failed to disclose the May 2016 meeting with Henry Greenberg, who also goes by the name Henry Oknyansky, to congressional investigators. The meeting was set up by Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo. Stone rejected the offer, and soon after Caputo texted Stone asking if anything interesting came of the meeting. Stone replied: "waste of time." Both Stone and Caputo did not disclose the Greenberg meeting during testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Caputo said he failed to disclose the encounter because he had "simply forgotten" about the meeting. Mueller is now investigating the previously undisclosed meeting. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  • Roger Stone is "not concerned" that he failed to tell Congress about his 2016 meeting with a Russian national offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. "I just didn't remember. 2016 was a pretty busy year," Stone said. "I don't think a failure of memory constitutes a perjury." (ABC News)

poll/ 56% of Americans oppose the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy of separating undocumented children from their parents. 27% of respondents, meanwhile, said they agreed with the policy. (Daily Beast)

poll/ 54% of Americans believe it's unlikely that Trump's sit-down with North Korea's Kim Jong Un will lead Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arms. 42%, however, believe the meeting lessened the chance of war. (ABC News)

poll/ 57% of Americans approve of how Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is handling Trump's personal attack and trade dispute. 37% approve of how Trump is handling the situation. (Globalnews.ca)

poll/ 45% of Americans approve of Trump's job performance, his highest approval rating since shortly after he took office. 50% disapprove. (Gallup / The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court declined to decide two challenges to partisan gerrymandering, allowing controversial district maps to stand and be used in the midterm elections. The justices sidestepped the question of whether the the maps are legal. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

  2. The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to overturn a nationwide injunction that blocks the government from punishing sanctuary cities for declining to help the federal government enforce immigration laws. (NBC News)

  3. FBI Director Christopher Wray stands by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying "I do not believe Special Counsel Mueller is on a witch hunt." (Bloomberg)

  4. Trump signed a space policy directive making it easier for commercial companies to operate in space. The directive also asks NASA to establish new guidelines to avoid the creation of new space debris. (Politico)

  5. Trump directed the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces, saying: "We are going to have the Air Force and we're going to have the Space Force, separate but equal. It is going to be something, so important." (The Verge / CNBC)

  6. The Trump Tower in Chicago has never followed EPA rules for documenting how its use of the Chicago River for cooling water impacts fish. The Trump International Hotel and Tower is one of the largest users of Chicago River water for its cooling systems and is the only one that has failed to comply with the fish-protecting regulations. (Chicago Tribune)

  7. Steve Bannon said Trump has never lied to the American people, because he "speaks in a particular vernacular that connects to people in this country." In reality, Trump has made more than 3,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. (ABC News / PolitiFact)

Day 512: Fickle.

1/ A federal judge revoked Paul Manafort's bail and sent him to jail while he awaits trial after Robert Mueller accused Trump's former campaign chief of witness tampering. "I cannot turn a blind eye to this," Judge Amy Berman Jackson said. Manafort had posted a $10 million bond to remain at home while awaiting his September trial on charges that include money laundering and false statements. He will now remain in pretrial detention until his trial. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

2/ Rudy Giuliani on Mueller's investigation: "When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons." The comment came shortly after Manafort was sent to jail and his bail revoked following an attempt to tamper with two witnesses in the Russia investigation. Giuliani claimed he had seen no evidence to warrant Manafort being sent to jail. (New York Daily News / Axios)

3/ Giuliani called on Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein to "redeem themselves" by suspending the Robert Mueller investigation today. Giuliani also called for Peter Strzok to be put in jail over a series of text messages he exchanged with fellow FBI agent Lisa Page during the 2016 election campaign. "Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Strzok," Giuliani said. "Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week." (Politico)

4/ A federal judge refused to grant Michael Cohen a restraining order against Michael Avenatti to stop him from speaking to the media about the Stormy Daniels case. Cohen argued that Avenatti's "publicity tour" of more that 100 television interviews since March is unethical, and harms Cohen's ability to have a fair trial by turning the case into a "media circus." U.S. District Judge James Otero said Cohen had not shown he would suffer "immediate, irreparable injury." (Politico / CNN / Reuters)

5/ Federal prosecutors have pieced together 16 pages of shredded documents seized from Michael Cohen and recovered 731 pages of encrypted text messages during the FBI's April raids of his home, office, and hotel room. Cohen has argued that most of the material is subject to attorney-client privilege. (New York Daily News / Business Insider / BuzzFeed News)

  • Michael Cohen has told family and friends that he is willing to cooperate with federal investigators. The treatment from Trump and Rudy Giuliani has left Cohen feeling isolated, angry, and more open to cooperating. Cohen has not met with prosecutors to discuss any potential deal and is currently looking for a new legal team. (CNN)

  • Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Cohen violated federal disclosure laws as part of his consulting deals, including whether he lobbied for domestic or foreign clients without properly registering. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ Trump "certainly wouldn't sign" the Republican immigration proposal that would protect young undocumented migrants and end the policy of separating families at the southern border. Paul Ryan plans to bring up two immigration measures for a vote next week: a hard-line conservative bill, which will likely fail, and "a very good compromise" bill. Trump said he "wouldn't sign the more moderate one." The White House, meanwhile, tried to walk back the comments, saying Trump "misunderstood the question." (Reuters / New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post / The Hill)

7/ Homeland Security has separated at least 2,000 children from parents at the border since the Justice Department implemented its "zero tolerance" policy. Under its new policy, the Justice Department charges every adult caught crossing the border illegally with federal crimes and separates them from their children, as opposed to referring those with children to immigration courts. (Associated Press / CNN)

8/ The Trump administration announced a 25% tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports as Trump vowed to respond to what he called China's unfair trade practices. China retaliated with $50 billion worth of tariffs with "equal scale, equal intensity" on U.S. imports, calling Trump "fickle" and "provoking a trade war." The Dow fell 250 points in response to rising trade tensions. (Associated Press / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted of an escalation in the trade dispute between the U.S. and the European Union. Merkel warned that Europe's strategic interests are tied to the future of the car industry shortly after Trump cited national security concerns as a reason to place tariffs on German cars. "We should think about the strategic significance of the auto industry for the European Union," Merkel said, "so we can prepare an exchange with the U.S." (Reuters)

9/ Trump held an interview with "Fox and Friends" on the White House lawn after musing on Twitter that "maybe I'll have to make an unannounced trip down to see them" and live-tweeting segments from the show. Trump called James Comey a criminal, said the FBI is a "den of thieves," blamed Democrats for the separation of families at the US border, said it's "great to give" Kim Jong-un credibility, and again blamed Obama for Russia's annexation of Crimea. (New York Times / CNN / Vox / The Hill)

  • Trump called a CBS News reporter "so obnoxious" and told her to be "quiet at least five times." CBS correspondent Weijia Jiang tried to ask Trump "why he declared the nuclear threat from North Korea was already 'over.'" (The Hill)

  • Trump said he wants "my people" to "sit up at attention" like the North Koreans do when Kim Jong Un speaks. When asked by reporters to clarify what he meant by "my people," he replied: "You don't understand sarcasm." (The Hill / CNN)

Notables.

  1. EPA senior staffers said they frequently felt pressured by Scott Pruitt to help in personal matters and obtain special favors for his family. The officials said Pruitt "had a clear sense of entitlement." (New York Times)

  2. Trump took credit for winning the bid to host the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico. "Thank you for all of the compliments on getting the World Cup to come to the U.S.A., Mexico and Canada," Trump tweeted. "I worked hard on this, along with a Great Team of talented people." (Politico)

  3. The Trump administration is expected to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council due to "chronic anti-Israel bias." (Reuters)

  4. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a Russian company is not entitled to review grand jury materials. Concord Management and Consulting LLC has been charged with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Reuters)

  5. Trump's 2020 re-election is working with a company run by former Cambridge Analytica officials. At least four former Cambridge Analytica employees are affiliated with Data Propria, which specializes in voter and consumer targeting similar to Cambridge Analytica. (Associated Press)

Day 511: Persistent illegal conduct.

1/ The New York State attorney general sued Trump and his three eldest children for "persistent illegal conduct" at the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The lawsuit alleges that Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit, violating campaign finance laws, engaging in self-dealing to decorate one of his golf clubs, and illegally coordinating with his presidential campaign to stage a multimillion-dollar giveaway during a 2016 campaign event. The state asked to dissolve the foundation and distribute its remaining $1 million in assets to other charities, and force Trump to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties. Trump attacked the lawsuit on Twitter, calling it an attempt by the "sleazy New York Democrats" to damage him. He vowed not to settle the case. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ The Inspector General Report: James Comey "deviated" from FBI and Justice Department procedures while investigating Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. The report concluded that Comey's decisions were not "the result of political bias," but that his "decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice." Trump has argued that FBI agents tried to rig the Clinton investigation to help her win the presidency. The report also concludes that the text messages exchanged by FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did not improperly affect the investigation, but "the conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation." (Bloomberg / New York Times)

  • Comey Responds: I was wrong, but disagree with some of the conclusions. (New York Times)

  • Comey used a personal Gmail account to conduct official FBI business while serving as the agency's director, which was "inconsistent" with a policy by the Justice Department. (CNBC)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputy press secretary Raj Shah are planning to leave the White House,according to a CBS News report. Sanders plans to leave by the end of the year, while Shah hasn't settled on an exact date. Sanders denied the report, tweeting: "Does @CBSNews know something I don't about my plans and my future? I was at my daughter's year-end Kindergarten event and they ran a story about my 'plans to leave the WH' without even talking to me. I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." (CBS News)

  • The White House sent out a flyer asking if conservatives are "interested in a job at the White House." The email, advertising a job fair, promises "representatives from across the Trump administration will be there to meet job seekers of every experience level." (Politico)

  • Marc Short, the White House's top liaison to Capitol Hill, will leave his job this summer citing "diminishing returns" of pushing Trump's agenda. (Wall Street Journal)

  • 👋 Who The F*ck Has Left The Trump Administration

4/ Jeff Sessions cited the Bible in his defense of the Trump administration's policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their families. Sessions invoked the Apostle Paul for his "clear and wise command" to say people should "obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes." Sarah Huckabee Sanders also defended separating parents from their children, saying it's "very biblical to enforce the law." She then proceeded to blame on Democrats for refusing to "close the immigration loophole." (NBC News / Talking Points Memo / Axios / CNBC)

5/ White House Counsel Don McGahn recused his entire staff from Robert Mueller's investigation last summer because many staffers "had been significant participants" in the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. Former White House lawyer Ty Cobb said McGahn's recusal was a key reason why he was hired last summer to manage Trump's response to the Russia investigation. (Politico)

  • Trump Jr. told the hosts of "Fox and Friends" that "it would be stupid" of Trump to agree to an interview with Robert Mueller. "I don't think any proper lawyer would say, 'Hey, you should go do it,' because it's not about collusion anymore," Trump Jr. said. "It's about, 'Can we get him to say something that may be interpreted as somewhat off or inaccurate, and after 50,000 questions, maybe you make a mistake, and that's how we get you, and that's ridiculous." (Politico)

6/ The White House launched a campaign to discredit Michael Cohen as speculation that he is preparing to flip on Trump continues to mount. The plan involves discrediting Cohen by arguing that whatever compromising information he shares with prosecutors about Trump is a lie meant to please Mueller in order to save his own skin. The plan includes everything from Trump's tweets, to comments from Alan Dershowitz, to front-page stories in the National Enquirer, all apparently intended to cast doubt on Cohen's credibility and motives. (Washington Post)

  • Michael Cohen believes Trump and his allies are turning against him and that he feels increasingly isolated. (CBS News)

Notables.

  1. John Kelly revoked Rudy Giuliani's son's West Wing access after Trump ordered Andrew Giuliani be promoted to special assistant to the president. (Axios)

  2. The New York Court Appeals denied Trump's motion to dismiss Summer Zervos' defamation lawsuit against him. This is the third time Trump has tried and failed to get the case tossed or delayed. (ABC News / Vox)

  3. The Justice Department will not stop the AT&T-Time Warner merger, clearing the way for the deal to be completed as soon as Friday. (CNBC / Reuters)

  4. Trump told G7 leaders that Crimea is Russian because everyone who lives there speaks Russian. In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, leading to international condemnation and sanctions, and directly leading to Russia being kicked out of the then-G8. (BuzzFeed News)

  5. Mike Pompeo said sanctions on North Korea will remain until the country has completely denuclearized. The statement contradicts North Korean state media reports that Kim and Trump agreed to a plan of "step-by-step and simultaneous action" to achieve peace and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. (Reuters)

  6. Representative Darrell Issa is a candidate to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The California Republican would replace Mick Mulvaney, the agency's interim leader. (Bloomberg)

  7. The Supreme Court struck down Minnesota's law barring voters from wearing political badges, buttons and other insignia inside a polling place. The court's 7-2 decision said Minnesota's interpretation of the word "political" was too broad. (NPR)

  8. A construction company owned by the Chinese government was hired to work on the Trump golf club development in Dubai. China State Construction Engineering Corp. received a $19.6 million contract from DAMAC Properties, a Trump Organization partner. (McClatchy DC)

Day 510: Sleep well tonight.

1/ Michael Cohen is expected to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the criminal investigation into his business dealings as the law firm handling his case is not expected to represent him moving forward. No replacement counsel has been named at this time. Cohen has until Friday to complete a review of over 3.7 million documents seized in the April 9 raids of his New York properties and law office. (ABC News / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

2/ A State Department appointee has been compiling a list of career diplomats who are loyal to Trump. Mari Stull, better known as the wine blogger "Vino Vixen," has been reviewing social media posts from State Department staffers and UN workers for signs of deviating political views. Stull was appointed two months ago by the Trump administration. (Foreign Policy)

3/ Trump Twitter declared there is "no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea" a day after meeting with Kim Jong Un. Trump said that "everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office," and claimed his meeting with Kim was an "interesting and very positive experience." He urged Americans to "sleep well tonight!" (CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Rod Rosenstein plans to call on the House general counsel to investigate the conduct of House Intelligence Committee staff. Committee staffers claimed Rosenstein threatened to "subpoena" emails, phone records and other documents during a tense meeting earlier this year, which one aide described as a "personal attack." The Justice Department disputes the account, saying Rosenstein "was making the point – after being threatened with contempt" by House Republicans that "he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false." (CNN)

5/ Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe is suing the Justice Department and the FBI. His lawyers claim McCabe has been denied access to materials related to his firing that he needs to defend himself in connection with allegations of misconduct. McCabe was fired from the FBI in March, less than two days shy of his retirement date. (Politico / CNN)

6/ Robert Mueller revealed new evidence that Paul Manafort directed an unregistered lobbying campaign in the U.S. on behalf of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Mueller's team released two memos from 2013 that detail Manafort's involvement in influencing debate in Congress and the press about the imprisonment of Yanukovych's main political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. (Politico)

  • Mueller filed a request for 150 blank subpoenas in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Paul Manafort lives. The two-page filing says each subpoena recipient must appear in the Alexandria, Va., courthouse on July 25 to testify in the case. The 150 blank subpoenas represent 75 total possible witnesses. (Washington Examiner)

7/ Mueller's office claimed that Russian intelligence agencies are trying to meddle in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Prosecutors are trying to block foreign intelligence agencies and defendants from seeing evidence in the investigation of interference in the 2016 election, lest this "result in the release of information that would assist foreign intelligence services" and others in future operations against the U.S. Last February, Mueller obtained a grand jury indictment of three Russian companies and 13 Russian individuals on charges they sought to influence the 2016 presidential race. The only defendant in that case is the Russian firm Concord Management and Consulting, which is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman known as Putin's chef. The pretrial process entitles a defendant the material assembled during the investigation. (Politico)

poll/ 36% of voters overall have an unfavorable view of Robert Mueller's probe, while 32% of voters hold a favorable view, and 32% don't have an opinion. Mueller's unfavorable numbers have hit highs among Republicans (53%), Democrats (24%), and independents (33%) from this time last year. (Politico)

poll/ 43% of Ohio voters approve of the job Trump is doing while 54% disapprove. In the 2016 election, 51% of Ohio voters voted for Trump, while 43% voted for Clinton. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. The Federal Reserve will raise interest rates today to 2% – the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis. The rate increase will be the second one this year, and the seventh since the end of the Great Recession. (New York Times)

  2. ZTE lost nearly $3 billion in market value after lawmakers restored penalties on the telecom and smartphone maker for violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Last week, the Trump administration made a deal to save the firm. (New York Times)

  3. Scott Pruitt had an EPA aide contact Republican donors in order to get his wife a job. Marlyn Pruitt eventually worked "temporarily as an independent contractor" for the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative political group which was one of Pruitt's Oklahoma-based PACs. JCN said it was pleased with Marlyn's work. (Washington Post)

  4. The House will vote next week on two competing immigration bills after Republican moderates fell two votes short of forcing a vote on bipartisan measures aimed at directly helping young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. (New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 509: A very special bond.

1/ The Justice Department argued that Trump could continue to profit from foreign governments visiting his hotel in Washington, D.C., if he didn't explicitly provide something in return. A federal judge criticized the argument that Trump's financial interest in the Trump International Hotel in D.C. is constitutional. The lawsuit, brought by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, claims that Trump's profits from the hotel violate the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits government employees from receiving financial benefits outside of their official salary. The judge promised to decide by the end of the July whether to allow the case to proceed to the next stage. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / CNN)

2/ Michael Cohen told friends he believes he will soon be indicted and arrested as part of Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump's campaign and Russia. Investigators are probing Cohen for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. (NY Daily News)

  • Michael Avenatti claimed that the Russian government is trying to plant false stories about him in the press. Avenatti said people in the Russian government claimed that he traveled to Moscow and had questionable encounters with women there, and that he previously represented Russian and Ukrainian legal interests before the U.S. government. "I've never been to Moscow in my life," Avenatti said. "I've never traveled to Russia in my life." (Daily Beast)

3/ Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump earned at least $82 million in outside income while serving as Trump's advisers during 2017. Kushner reported more than $5 million in income from a Kushner Companies apartment complex in Plainsboro, N.J. (Washington Post)

4/ Ivanka Trump personally made $3.9 million last year from her stake in the Trump International Hotel. She made an additional $5 million from businesses connected to her personal brand, as well as roughly $2 million in 2017 in pay and severance from the Trump Payroll Corp. Her reported income in 2017 was up "substantially" from spring 2017, when she reported about $2.4 million in income from the hotel since it opened in September 2016. (Politico)

5/ Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee want to interview Ivanka Trump as part of the investigation into Russian election interference. The committee wants to interview Ivanka about "two separate national security questions." Sen. Ron Wyden said investigators should ask about her role in connecting a Russian weightlifter, Dmitry Klokov, with Michael Cohen. Klokov offered to connect her father to Putin in order to facilitate building a Trump Tower in Moscow1. The other issue Wyden said investigators should ask about is China's decision to grant Ivanka trademarks around the same time her father promised to help Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE stay in business. (BuzzFeed News)

6/ The Senate blocked Trump's deal with Chinese telecom giant ZTE. The Senate's move comes less than a week after Trump struck a deal with ZTE that would keep the company in business with U.S. companies and markets2. The ZTE deal would have forced the company to pay $1 billion in penalties, reorganize itself, and insert U.S. compliance officers into the company in exchange for access to U.S. consumers. ZTE is considered by the U.S. intelligence community to be a mechanism for espionage by selling phones that can be tracked and enabled to steal intellectual property. (NBC News)

7/ Trumps said Justin Trudeau's comment that Canada "will not be pushed around" will end up costing Canadians "a lot of money." Trump added that Trudeau "probably didn't know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions," in reference to Trudeau's comment after the G7 meeting that the aluminum and steel tariffs imposed by the U.S. on Canada on national security grounds were insulting. Trump added the Trudeau "learned" his lesson for criticizing him. (CNBC / Globe and Mail)

  • White House trade adviser Peter Navarro apologized for his "special place in hell" comments directed at Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. (Reuters)

8/ A federal judge ordered Robert Mueller to identify all the key figures referred to but not named in an indictment accusing Paul Manafort of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine and of laundering millions of dollars. Mueller's team has until Friday to turn over the names to Manafort's lawyers. (Politico / CNBC / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • Paul Manafort will be arraigned on Friday for witness tampering charges lodged by Robert Mueller. It's the third superseding indictment by Mueller against Manafort and the arraignment coincides with Manafort's previously scheduled hearing on whether his $10 million bail should be revoked due to witness tampering accusations. (Reuters)

🇰🇵🇺🇸 Dept. of USA vs DPRK.

  1. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint statement agreeing to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In the agreement, Kim vows to give up his nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. security guarantees, but fell short of outlining concrete measures. (NBC News)

  2. Trump believes Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear weapons because they have a "terrific relationship" and he's "developed a very special bond" with the North Korean leader. Trump said Kim "reaffirmed" his commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that "we're ready to write a new chapter between our nations." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  3. Trump agreed to suspend regular military exercises with South Korea as part of his concessions to Kim Jong Un, contradicting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis's campaign to make U.S. troops more combat-ready. Trump described the decision as "very expensive" but also "very provocative." Trump's decision caused consternation among some military experts, who believe the troops provide security for South Korea and Japan. Trump used the term "war games," a phrase preferred by Pyongyang, which characterizes them as rehearsals for an invasion. (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press)

  4. Trump claimed that Kim Jong Un "loves his people" and the imprisoned North Koreans are "going to be one of the great winners" of the denuclearization talks. Trump said life is "rough" in North Korea, but that "it's rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there." Human Rights Watch describes North Korea as "one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world." (Washington Post / CBS News / CNN)

  5. Trump didn't use notes for his meeting with Kim Jong Un because he has "one of the great memories of all time." Trump characterized his meeting with Kim as a "great conversation." (The Hill)

  6. Trump pitched Kim Jong Un that North Korea "could have the best hotels in the world." Trump showed Kim a "tape that was done on the highest level of future development." (ABC News)

  7. The White House restricted press access to parts of Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un. The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg were kept out of the pool, as were the representatives for radio and the foreign press corps. (Associated Press)

  8. The White House made a Hollywood-style movie trailer to depict a story about "two men, two leaders and one destiny." The short video shows images of warplanes and artillery with a narrator suggesting that "a new world can begin today, one of friendship, respect and goodwill." Some journalists assumed they were watching a propaganda films by Pyongyang. (Associated Press / Washington Post)

  9. Read the full text of the joint statement signed by Trump and Kim. (Politico)


✏️ Notables.

  1. Five states are holding primaries today: Nevada, Virginia, Maine, South Carolina and North Dakota. This is everything you need to know about key races in each state.

  2. Trump's economic adviser suffered a heart attack. Larry Kudlow is currently being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland. A White House spokesperson said Kudlow is "doing well" after suffering a "very mild heart attack." (Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  3. The Department of Justice will likely issue a public report next month on foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections and how to combat them. Jeff Sessions convened a cyber-digital task force in February, after facing criticism from Democrats that not enough was being done to address future foreign interference. (The Hill)

  4. A federal judge ruled that AT&T can move forward with its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. AT&T has agreed not to complete the acquisition for six days to allow time for an appeal from the Justice Department. (CNN)

  5. Ted Cruz defended the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the border, saying it can be avoided if people stop crossing the border illegally. The separation happens regardless of whether a migrant is seeking asylum. (The Hill)

  6. The Trump administration is looking to build tent cities to shelter the growing number of migrant children being held in detention. The Department of Health and Human Services is considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children at Fort Bliss, an Army base near El Paso. (McClatchy DC)

  1. Day 503: Obsessed. Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to introduce Trump to Putin during the campaign in 2015 in order to facilitate a 100-story Trump Tower in Moscow. 

  2. Day 480: A fucked-up feedback loop. Trump instructed the Commerce Department to help ZTE – the world's fourth-largest maker of cellphones – get "back into business" after the Chinese company was penalized for violating U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran. 

Day 508: Sobering and a bit depressing.

1/ Trump refused to endorse the G7 statement, threatened to impose tariffs on foreign auto imports, and accused Justin Trudeau of being "meek," "very dishonest and weak" after Canada's prime minister pledged to retaliate against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum products. In a pair of tweets aboard Air Force One, Trump said he believes that countries are ripping off the U.S. through high tariffs and threatened to stop all trade with any country that did not lower or eliminate tariffs. The pair of tweets came hours after Trump and European leaders had agreed on a joint communiqué, which included a pledge to engage in "free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade and investment." (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • Trump delivered "a long, frank rant" to trade allies at the G7 that the United States has been treated unfairly by its trading partners. (Reuters)

  • German chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe will implement counter-measures against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. Merkel characterized Trump's Twitter withdrawal as "sobering and a bit depressing." (Reuters)

  • In April, Trump told French president Emmanuel Macron that the European Union is "worse than China." In their bilateral meeting in the White House's Cabinet Room, Macron said to Trump, "Let's work together, we both have a China problem." Trump "then went on a rant about Germany and cars." (Axios)

  • France: Trump's "incoherence and inconsistency" would not upend international cooperation, said a statement released by French president Macron's office. It added that partnerships "cannot depend on fits of anger or little words. Let us be serious and worthy of our people." (Politico)

2/ Trump's economic adviser accused Justin Trudeau of "betrayal" for making Trump look weak before his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Trudeau promised to "move forward with retaliatory measures" in response to Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico. Trudeau called the tariffs "kind of insulting" and saying that Canadians "are nice" but "we will not be pushed around." Larry Kudlow said Trudeau "stabbed us in the back," and that Trump "is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around. He is not going to permit any show of weakness on a trip to negotiate with North Korea." Kudlow went on to call Trudeau "amateurish" and "sophomoric." (New York Times / Reuters / CNN)

  • Trump's "bully" attack on Trudeau outrages Canadians. "It was extremely undiplomatic and antagonistic," Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, said. "It was disrespectful and ill informed." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is "unconcerned" about the diplomatic crisis caused by Trump's insults directed at the Canadian prime minister, saying "there are always irritants in relationships." (Washington Post)

3/ White House trade adviser Peter Navarro: "There's a special place in hell" for Trudeau and world leaders who double cross Trump. "And that's what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference." When asked whether the president agreed, Navarro said the sentiment came "right from Air Force One." (Politico)

  • Putin: Criticism of Russia's "so-called destabilizing efforts" in the West is "unfounded," and that "this creative babbling" by world leaders has so far "led to nothing." Putin said he'd welcome a meeting with Trump. (Politico)

4/ Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. The move effectively blocks tens of thousands of people – women in particular – from seeking refuge in America. Sessions ruled that a 2014 Board of Immigration Appeals decision protecting women from Central America from domestic violence was wrongly decided, saying victims of "private" crimes like domestic violence do not qualify for asylum. Immigration courts are housed under the Justice Department – not the judiciary branch – which means Sessions has the authority to refer cases to himself and overturn earlier decisions. (New York Times / Los Angeles Times / CNN)

5/ Trump will leave the North Korea summit a day early because nuclear negotiations have moved "more quickly than expected." The White House said Trump and Kim Jong Un will hold a one-on-one meeting, accompanied only by translators, followed by a "working lunch" with an expanded group of officials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lowered expectations, saying the summit might yield little in the way of concrete success. (Associated Press / Politico)

  • 🔮 Live Updates: Trump will meet Kim Jong Un at 9 a.m. on Tuesday — 9 p.m. Eastern on Monday in the first-ever meeting between leaders of their two countries. (New York Times / CNN)

  • Trump will not bring up human rights issues at the North Korea summit. Kim Jong Un's country has committed "unspeakable atrocities" on a scale reminiscent of Nazi Germany, according to a 2014 United Nations investigation. (NBC News)

  • Trump is willing to consider establishing official relations with North Korea and eventually opening an embassy in Pyongyang. "It would all depend what he gets in return," said a source close to the White House. "Denuclearization would have to be happening." (Axios)

  • Sean Hannity will host Trump's first sit-down TV interview following his summit with North Korea. Hannity is already in Singapore. (Axios)

poll/ 26% of voters think Trump will demand too much to secure a deal with North Korea. 31% believe Trump will secure a deal that is either fair or better for the U.S. (NBC News)


✏️ Notables.

  1. A federal judge ruled that the Trump and Michael Cohen legal teams cannot secretly object to documents protected by the attorney-client privilege, which were seized from Cohen during a series of raids by the authorities in April. Judge Kimba Wood ruled that the legal teams had to publicly submit their objections to the special master "except for those portions that divulge 'the substance of the contested documents.'" (New York Times)

  2. The millionaire businessman who bankrolled the Brexit campaign "met Russian officials multiple times before Brexit vote." Arron Banks gave about $16 million to the campaign, becoming the biggest donor in UK history. (The Guardian)

  3. Several prominent Russians, including some in Putin's inner circle, met with NRA officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. The contacts have emerged as the Justice Department investigates whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to help Trump's 2016 presidential bid. (McClatchy DC)

  4. The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on five Russian entities and three individuals, saying they worked with Moscow's intelligence service on ways to conduct cyber attacks against the U.S. and its allies. (Reuters / CNN)

  5. The Supreme Court upheld Ohio's method of purging voters from its voting rolls. The court ruled that a state may kick people off the rolls if they don't vote in a few elections and fail to respond to notices from election officials. The vote was 5 to 4, with the more conservative justices in the majority. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  6. The FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules took effect today. The rules prohibited internet providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon from charging more for certain content and required providers to treat all web traffic equally. (New York Times)

  7. A federal judge is set to rule on Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner for $85 billion, which was announced in October 2016. AT&T is the country's second-largest wireless network and would gain content trove from Time Warner, which includes HBO and CNN. The Justice Department, which filed the lawsuit, argued that the consolidation could harm its rivals. (Washington Post)

  8. Comcast plans to make an all-cash offer for Twenty-First Century Fox if AT&T's bid for Time Warner is approved. Comcast is preparing to raise $60 billion in a deal for Fox while simultaneously pursuing a $31 billion offer for the 61% of Sky that Fox doesn't already own. (CNBC)

  9. Betsy DeVos reinstated a for-profit college accreditor a month after an Education Department report said the organization failed to meet federal standards. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools failed to meet 57 of the 93 criteria that accreditors are required to meet under federal law. (Politico)

  10. Nearly 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border from October 2016 through February of this year. (Reuters)

  11. Trump routinely rips up papers that need to be preserved. He does it so much that some aides are specifically tasked with taping the papers back together. (Politico / New York Post)

  12. Several West Wing aides, including John Kelly, are said to be eyeing the exits as Trump has grown more emboldened to act on instinct alone. Kelly told visiting senators last week that the White House was "a miserable place to work." (New York Times)


👀 Watching.

A list of stories I'm keeping an eye on.

💬 What stories are you noticing? Let me know using the chat icon in the lower right-hand corner.

Day 505: We have a world to run.

1/ Robert Mueller filed witness tampering criminal charges against Paul Manafort and Russian national Konstantin Kilimnik. The superseding indictment charges the two men with obstructing justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and witness tampering. Kilimnik was indicted as part of the existing money laundering case against Manafort, who is also accused of illegal foreign lobbying and lying to federal officials. It's the first time Kilimnik was named, who was referred to as "Person A" and described as having links to Russian spy agencies in previous court filings. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Reuters)

2/ A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was arrested and charged with lying to the FBI about contacts with three reporters as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information. James Wolfe repeatedly denied contacts with the reporters despite having been in a three-year relationship with New York Times reporter Ali Watkins. The Justice Department seized Watkins' phone and email records, which news media advocates consider to be an intrusion of First Amendment freedoms. (New York Times / NPR / NBC News)

3/ Trump called on the G7 to reinstate Russia after it was kicked out for annexing Crimea four years ago, putting him at odds with world leaders who have insisted that Moscow remain ostracized. "Russia should be in this meeting," Trump said. "Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? … Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run." Trump also threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, and is now engaged in a series of trade wars with numerous countries in Europe, North America and Asia. Trump will leave the G7 summit early. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

4/ The Trump administration will not defend the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate from a legal challenge to its constitutionality brought by Texas and 19 other states. The Justice Department said the ACA provision requiring most Americans to buy health insurance has become unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in 2012 as the government's power to tax. The Justice Department argues that since Congress repealed the tax last year, the mandate and the law's consumer protections are no longer justified. California and 15 other states have filed a brief defending the law and its consumer protections. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Axios)

5/ Stormy Daniels' former attorney filed a defamation claim against her and Michael Avenatti. Keith Davidson's lawsuit against Daniels and Avenatti is in response to Daniels' accusation that he colluded with Michael Cohen to help Trump. Davidson filed a separate claim against Cohen for allegedly illegally recording their phone calls. (CNN)

6/ Rudy Giuliani claimed Melania Trump "believes her husband, and she knows it’s untrue [that Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels]." Melania's office responded: "I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani." (ABC News / New York Times)

  • Robert Mueller sees Giuliani as more of a spokesman than a lawyer with legal authority due to his haphazard approach to making demands and then changing what he wants. (Bloomberg)

poll/ 48% of voters favor the Democratic candidate in their congressional district while 39% favor the Republican. The 9-point lead is up from a 5-point edge Democrats held in March (46-41%). (Fox News)

poll/ 67% of voters say the country would be better off if more women were elected to political office. 24% of voters disagree. 87% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans say the country would be better off with more women in office. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is temporarily sending about 1,600 detainees to five federal prisons while they await civil immigration court hearings. It's the first large-scale use of federal prisons to hold detainees. (Reuters)

  2. Trump said he is considering posthumously pardoning boxer Muhammad Ali, who was convicted in 1967 after refusing military service in Vietnam. Ali's attorney called it "unnecessary." Ali is one of 3,000 individuals Trump is considering pardoning. (CNN)

  3. Trump wants to ask NFL players and other athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to recommend people they think he should pardon due to unfair treatment by the justice system. (CNN)

  4. Trump said he likely will support a congressional effort to end the federal ban on marijuana, putting him at odds with Jeff Sessions on the issue. (Los Angeles Times)

  5. Scott Pruitt had aides frequently fetch him protein bars, sweets, cookies, and Greek yogurt. Pruitt would often direct an aide to brew him pour-over coffee. (Daily Beast)

  6. After both the Warriors and the Cavaliers said they don't want to be invited to the White House after the NBA finals, Trump says the Warriors and the Cavaliers won't be invited to the White House. (CNBC)

  7. Mitt Romney predicted that Trump will win reelection in 2020, citing an improving economy and the likelihood that Democrats will choose an outside-the-mainstream candidate. (Politico)

Day 504: Acid-wash.

1/ Rudy Giuliani to Stormy Daniels: "I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance." He added that being a porn star "entitles you to no degree of giving your credibility any weight." Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, called Giuliani an "absolute, disgusting pig" and demanded Trump fire him "immediately." He added that "it doesn't matter what a woman's profession is. It has nothing to do with their credibility or whether they should be respected." Giuliani defended his statement, saying: "I don't have to undermine her credibility. She's done it by lying." (NBC News / ABC News / CNN)

  • Trump has appeared in three softcore porn videos. (CNN)

2/ The Justice Department will brief lawmakers next week about the FBI's use of an informant in connection with its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The new offer is a concession to Republican demands for more information about the probe. The Justice Department and FBI "are prepared to brief members on certain questions specifically raised by the speaker and other members" and allow lawmakers "to review certain supporting documents that were made available during the prior briefing." Democrats are concerned that the briefings could allow Trump's legal team access to sensitive details of the investigation. (Washington Post / CNBC)

  • Paul Ryan insisted that there was "no evidence of collusion" between Trump's campaign and Russia, but that there is "more digging to do." (Associated Press)

  • The classified briefing comes a day after Paul Ryan disputed Trump's assertion that FBI "spies" had infiltrated his campaign, saying evidence suggested the Bureau had acted appropriately. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Officials from the Justice Department and the FBI will brief the Republican and Democratic "Gang of Eight" leaders from the House and Senate and the intelligence committees. The documents won't be shared with other lawmakers. (Bloomberg)

3/ Adam Schiff called on Republicans to release the House Intelligence Committee interview transcripts related to the Russia investigation, saying they could shed "additional light on the issues of collusion and obstruction of justice." Schiff said some witnesses "may have testified untruthfully" and that Robert Mueller and his team "should consider whether perjury charges are warranted." (NBC News)

4/ Sean Hannity suggested that witnesses in Robert Mueller's probe "follow Hillary Clinton's lead" by destroying their personal phones before handing them over to prosecutors. Hannity told witnesses to "delete all your emails and then acid-wash your emails and hard drives on the phones, then take your phones and bash them with a hammer to little itsy bitsy pieces." Hand them over to Mueller, Hannity continued, "and say, Hillary Rodham Clinton, this is equal justice under the law." Hannity later insisted that he was kidding. (The Hill / Business Insider)

  • George Papadopoulos' Russian contact called him "unprofessional" and "unprepared," adding that "we did not close the door to the guy, but we did not take it seriously." (CNN)

5/ Colin Kaepernick's lawyers plan to subpoena Trump and Pence as part of his collusion case against the NFL in an attempt to gain information about Trump's political involvement with NFL owners. One of Kaepernick's attorneys recently claimed that an unnamed NFL owner admitted under oath during a deposition that he decided not to offer Kaepernick a contract after Trump called for the firing of players who refused to stand for the national anthem. (Yahoo! Sports / USA Today / Axios)

6/ France and Germany won't sign the joint G7 statement without major concessions from the U.S. on tariffs, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Paris climate accord. The joint statement details a range of policy issues that all leaders of the G7 group agree on. French president Emmanuel Macron urged the other members of the G7 to stand up to the U.S. over Trump's decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs against the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. The G7 summit is scheduled for June 8-9 in Quebec. (Bloomberg / Politico)

  • A White House analysis concluded that Trump's tariffs will hurt economic growth. Top White House officials, however, insist that Trump's trade approach will be "massively good for the U.S. economy." (New York Times)

  • U.S. renewable energy companies shelved more than $2.5 billion in renewable energy projects following Trump's tariff on imported solar panels. (Reuters)

7/ Trump complained to aides about having to spend two days in Canada for the G7 summit, saying the Friday trip is a distraction from his upcoming meeting with North Korea. White House staff has discussed sending Pence to Canada instead of Trump. (Washington Post)

8/ Trump's new national security adviser has not had a Cabinet-level National Security Council meeting on North Korea in his two months on the job. In April, Trump blamed John Bolton for derailing the upcoming summit with North Korea after Bolton said the U.S. would make no concessions unless North Korea denuclearized. Trump instead has driven the preparation for the summit almost exclusively on his own, consulting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Politico)

poll/ 48% of voters say they're more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on Trump. 53% say they're less likely to vote for a candidate who supports Trump on most issues. (NBC News)


🐊 Dept. of Swamp Things.

  1. Mick Mulvaney fired all 25 members of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's advisory board days after some of the members criticized his leadership as acting director of the watchdog agency. The CFPB plans to revamp the Consumer Advisory Board in the fall by hiring all new members. "The outspoken members of the Consumer Advisory Board seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer funded junkets to Washington, D.C., and being wined and dined by the Bureau than protecting consumers," said a spokesperson for the agency. (Washington Post)

  2. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the U.S. has signed a deal with Chinese telecom giant ZTE to end the crippling sanctions against the company. The deal includes a $1 billion penalty against ZTE and requires that U.S.-chosen compliance officers be placed inside the company. ZTE will also be required to change its board of directors and executive team within 30 days. (CNBC)

  3. The Trump administration will scale back how the federal government evaluates hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals. Instead of assessing the risk of potential chemical exposure in the air, ground or water, the EPA will focus on possible harm caused by direct contact. (New York Times)

  4. A U.S. district judge ordered the EPA to provide documents used by Scott Pruitt to claim that human behavior is not a "primary contributor" to climate change. (Scientific American / The Hill)

  5. The White House asked Scott Pruitt to stop visiting a West Wing restaurant. Pruitt has complained that EPA doesn't have a cafeteria of its own or private dining quarters. (Politico)

  6. Pruitt had his 24/7 security detail pick up his dry cleaning and help him find his favorite moisturizing lotion. The protective detail cost taxpayers nearly $3.5 million during Pruitt's first year on the job. (Washington Post)

Day 503: Obsessed.

1/ Stormy Daniels filed a new lawsuit against her former attorney and Michael Cohen, saying the two men "colluded" and "acted in concert" to "manipulate" her in order to benefit Trump. The lawsuit alleges that as a part of the effort to deny Trump's affair with Daniels, her former attorney, Keith Davidson, and Cohen "hatched a plan to have Ms. Clifford appear on Mr. Sean Hannity's program to falsely deny the accuracy of the In Touch article" in January. In Touch magazine published excerpts from its 2011 interview with Daniels in which she said she had an affair with Trump starting in 2006. It was revealed in April that Cohen also represents Hannity. Daniels' current attorney, Michael Avenatti, called the private messages evidence that "prior denials by Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen relating to what Mr. Trump knew, and about the honesty of my client, were absolute lies," adding that "there was a significant cover-up here as part of an attempt to deceive the American people and Mrs. Trump and we intend on getting to the bottom of it." (New York Times / NBC News / CNN)

2/ Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to introduce Trump to Putin during the campaign in 2015 in order to facilitate a 100-story Trump Tower in Moscow. Mueller's team and congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction. There is no evidence that Ivanka's contact with former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov was illegal or election related. (BuzzFeed News)

3/ Robert Mueller requested that witnesses turn in their personal phones so investigators can inspect their encrypted messages on WhatsApp, Confide, Signal and Dust. The revelation comes as the special counsel filed a claim that Paul Manafort tampered with witnesses through the same types of programs. (CNBC)

4/ Giuliani claimed Mueller's team is "trying very, very hard to frame [Trump] to get him in trouble when he hasn't done anything wrong." He added that Mueller's team "can't emotionally come to grips with the fact that this whole thing with Russian collusion didn't happen. They are trying to invent theories of obstruction of justice." Giuliani also reiterated the claim that Trump has the power to pardon himself, but won't do so because "he's innocent" and "he hasn't done anything wrong." (Associated Press)

5/ Paul Ryan agreed that there is "no evidence" to support claims that the FBI spied on Trump's 2016 campaign for political purposes by using a confidential informant to contact members of the campaign while investigating its ties to Russia. Ryan added that Trump should not try to pardon himself, saying, "I don't know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn't. And no one is above the law." (New York Times / Politico)


Notables.

  1. The Justice Department's internal watchdog has concluded that James Comey defied authority while FBI director and was "insubordinate" at times. (ABC News)

  2. Mexico imposed new tariffs on roughly $3 billion worth of American pork, steel, cheese, and other goods in response to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, complicating efforts to renegotiate NAFTA with Mexico and Canada. Trump's chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the president's "preference now, and he asked me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately." (New York Times)

  3. Facebook has had data-sharing agreements with at least four Chinese electronics companies since 2010, including Huawei, which has close ties to the Chinese government and was flagged by U.S. intelligence agencies as a national security threat. The partnerships with Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL are all still active, but Facebook says it plans to wind down the deal with Huawei by the end of the week. (New York Times)

  4. More than 118,000 California primary voters were left off the voter rolls due to a random printing error. Those voters can still cast provisional ballots, but the process of counting and verifying a large number of provisional ballots could delay the vote tally in some local races. "We apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused," said the Los Angeles County Clerk in a statement. "Voters should be assured their vote will be counted." (CNN / Politico)

  5. Trump commuted Alice Marie Johnson's life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime after meeting with Kim Kardashian last week to discuss the case. A White House official said Trump is "obsessed" with his power to pardon people, describing pardons as Trump's new "favorite thing" to talk about. The administration has prepared the pardoning paperwork for at least 30 people. (Washington Post / CNN / Associated Press)

  6. Scott Pruitt's top aide resigned from the EPA shortly after portions of her House Oversight Committee testimony were made public in which she says regularly did personal tasks for Pruitt. Millan Hupp for Pruitt in Oklahoma before joining him in Washington. (The Atlantic)

  7. Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration policy of separating migrant children from their families when they arrive at the southern U.S. border. "If people don't want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them," Sessions said. "We've got to get this message out. You're not given immunity." (Washington Post)

  8. The Trump communications aide who mocked John McCain's deteriorating health has left the White House. The White House said Kelly Sadler is "no longer employed within the executive office of the president," but two people familiar with Sadler's departure said she was not fired because of her comments about McCain. Instead, they suggested that Sadler was pushed out for accusing her boss, White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp, of leaking her McCain comments to the press. (New York Times / CNN)

Day 502: Witness tampering.

1/ Trump blamed Jeff Sessions for the ongoing Russia investigation into possible collusion, lamented asking Sessions to lead the Justice Department, and suggested that the probe would have been shut down by now if Sessions had not recused himself. In a tweet, Trump said the "Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself." (Washington Post / Reuters / Politico)

  • Trump demanded to know "what is taking so long" in the release of the Justice Department inspector general's report into the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. He complained about "numerous delays" and said he hopes it's not being "made weaker." (Politico / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • George Papadopoulos' wife asked Trump to pardon her husband, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. (The Hill)

  • The Trump administration ended its effort to appoint the Justice Department's No. 3 official after at least two potential candidates said they weren't interested in the position. The associate attorney general position would be responsible for overseeing the Mueller probe if Rod Rosenstein were to depart. (Wall Street Journal)

2/ Robert Mueller's team accused Paul Manafort of felony witness tampering in his federal tax and money laundering case. Prosecutors say Manafort attempted to contact witnesses by phone through an intermediary and through an encrypted messaging program in order to "suborn perjury," otherwise known as trying to convince someone to lie under oath. (New York Times / Reuters / The Atlantic)

3/ A federal judge scheduled a hearing for June 15 on whether to revoke bail for Manafort for allegedly trying to tamper with potential witnesses while on a $10 million pretrial release. Judge Amy Berman is expected to rule on whether Manafort will have to go to jail pending his trial or whether the terms of his bail are further restricted. (NBC News / CNBC)

4/ Putin claimed that he and Trump have a close working relationship and "regularly talk over the phone." When asked why there has not been a bilateral summit between Putin and the Trump administration, he said "this is the result of the ongoing acute political struggle in the United States." Putin continued: "Indeed, Donald Trump and I have, firstly, met more than once at various international venues and secondly, we regularly talk over the phone." (Axios / Kremlin Presidential Executive Office)

5/ Mitch McConnell canceled most of the Senate's August recess due to "the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president's nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year." The move will keep Democrats up for re-election off the campaign trail while pushing through confirmations for as many of Trump's judicial and executive branch nominees as possible. (CNBC / Axios / Politico)

6/ A New York state judge has ruled that Trump can be deposed in a defamation lawsuit brought last year by Summer Zervos, the former contestant on "The Apprentice" who accused Trump of kissing and groping her. The judge set a Jan. 31, 2019, deadline for discovery in the lawsuit and ordered both parties to submit to depositions. Zervos sued Trump for defamation after he called her accusations "100% false" and began calling her "phony people coming up with phony allegations." (Politico / BuzzFeed News / The Hill)

7/ Trump canceled the Philadelphia Eagles planned White House visit to celebrate their Super Bowl championship less than 24 hours before the players were expected to arrive. Several Eagles players said they would skip the ceremony. Trump had "insist[ed] that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart." (Philly.com / Washington Post)

  • LeBron James said neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Golden State Warriors want an invite to the White House. "I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants an invite anyway. It won't be Cleveland or Golden State going." Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr added that "it will be nice when things get back to normal in three years." LeBron called Trump a "bum" last year after Trump disinvited Stephen Curry and the Warriors from the White House. (CBS Boston / The Hill)

8/ Betsy DeVos told lawmakers that the White House's school safety commission will not examine the role of guns in school violence, saying "that is not part of the commission's charge, per se." Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. to "study and make recommendations" on a variety of topics, including age restrictions for certain gun purchases." (Associated Press / Politico / The Hill)

poll/ Overall 68% of Americans feel worn out by the news these days. 62% of those who follow the news most of the time report feeling fatigued by the news, while 78% of those who follow the news less often report being worn out. 34% say they follow the news only when something important is happening. (Pew Research Center)

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Notables.

  1. Hundreds of migrant children have spent more than the legal maximum of 72 hours in custody at U.S. border stations. Border agents and child welfare workers are running out of space to keep the children who have been separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. (NBC News)

  2. The Justice Department will appeal a ruling that Trump can't block people on Twitter based on their political views. The seven original plaintiffs in the suit against Trump have had their accounts unblocked, but the DOJ will still contest the ruling in federal appeals court. (Reuters)

  3. David Koch will retire from Koch Industries and other Koch-affiliated groups due to health reasons. Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer more than two decades ago. (CNBC / New York Times)

  4. Scott Pruitt had an EPA aide arrange a meeting for his wife about becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee. Pruitt's wife "started, but did not complete, the Chick-fil-A franchisee application," a company representative said. (Washington Post)

  5. Melania Trump made her first public appearance since surgery for a kidney ailment in mid-May. (ABC News)

  6. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called herself "an honest person" while refusing to correct her August 2017 statement that Trump wasn't involved in drafting a misleading statement about Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. (Politico / CNN)

Day 501: Absolute right.

1/ Trump tweeted that Robert Mueller's appointment is "totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!" and asserted that he has the "absolute right to PARDON myself." Trump, however, said he would "play the game" because he has "done nothing wrong." Over the weekend, Giuliani said Trump "probably" has the power to pardon himself, but that it would be "unthinkable" for him to do so and would "lead to probably an immediate impeachment." He added that Trump "has no need to do that. He didn't do anything wrong." (New York Times / CNBC / CNN / Washington Post)

2/ Trump's lawyers sent a 20-page letter to Mueller's office asserting that Trump cannot be compelled to testify. The letter also argues that it's impossible for Trump to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation because the U.S. Constitution empowers the president to, "if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon." Giuliani responded to news of the leaked letter, saying that "if Mueller tries to subpoena us, we're going to court" and that "our recollection keeps changing" about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting and that "this is the reason you don't let this president testify in the special counsel's Russia investigation." The letter confirms that Trump dictated a "short but accurate" statement issued by Trump Jr. about his 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer who an intermediary claimed had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. (New York Times / ABC News)

  • Annotated: The Trump Lawyers' Confidential Memo to Mueller. (New York Times)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answers about her August 2017 claim that Trump "certainly didn't dictate" the Trump Tower statement. At the time, Sanders said Trump only "weighed in" on Trump Jr.'s statement about the Russia meeting, saying "the statement that Don Jr. issued is true, there's no inaccuracy in the statement." (The Hill)

  • Day 194: Dictated. Trump personally dictated Trump Jr.'s statement about his meeting with the Russian lawyer, saying they had "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children" when they met in June 2016. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump only "weighed in" on Trump Jr.'s statement about the Russia meeting. (What The Fuck Just Happened Today)

4/ Giuliani bragged that Trump could shoot James Comey in the Oval Office and still wouldn't be indicted for it. "In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted," Giuliani said. "I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is." Giuliani claimed that the only way Trump could be indicted is if he is impeached first. "If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day," Giuliani said. "Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him." (HuffPost / The Hill)

5/ The White House ordered Cabinet members to publicly support Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal last year. Emails reveal that the White House told all of Trump's top secretaries to "prep statements of support for the decision being announced," saying there were "no exceptions." (The Hill / E&E News)


Notables.

  1. Trump's phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on trade and immigration was described as "terrible" after Macron candidly criticized Trump's policies. (CNN)

  2. The White House is "very concerned" about Trump's base showing up for the midterm elections in November, according to Rick Santorum. (Washington Examiner)

  3. The Koch brothers unveiled a multiyear, multimillion-dollar campaign to oppose Trump's tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. (CNBC)

  4. Scott Pruitt tasked an EPA aide with finding a discount on a used "Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top" mattress for personal use from the Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. The Pentagon's inspector general is investigating Ronny Jackson, Trump's one-time personal White House physician whose nomination as Veterans Affairs secretary was withdrawn amid allegations of misconduct and poor administration of the White House medical office. (CNN / CBS News)

  6. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple based on his Christian beliefs. The justices, in a 7-2 decision, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward religion when it found that baker Jack Phillips violated the state's anti-discrimination law. The state law bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. (Reuters)

  7. Melania Trump will skip the G7 summit in Quebec and does not plan to attend the planned June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korea. Melania has not been seen in public since May 10. (Reuters / ABC News)

  8. Trump to Kim Kardashian: You and Kanye West are boosting my popularity with African-Americans. Trump's approval among African-Americans is up from 12% in April to 18% in May. (Bloomberg)

Day 498: "Totally unacceptable."

1/ The European Union opened a case at the World Trade Organization in response to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. The EU is also expected to announce retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. on products such as Levi's jeans, bourbon whiskey, cranberries, and peanut butter. "The European Union is not at war with anyone," said the EU high representative on foreign policy. "We don’t want to be; for us this is out of the question … The European Union is a peace project, including on trade." (The Guardian)

  • Trump's tariffs on US allies will shrink the savings Americans gained from tax cuts. "Combined with additional tariffs on Chinese imports and retaliatory steps taken by U.S. allies, economists across the political spectrum agree these levies will have a negative impact." (CNBC)

2/ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to attend a meeting with Trump to discuss the renegotiation of NAFTA because Mike Pence told him the meeting would only happen if Trudeau agreed to include a five-year sunset clause into the deal. Trudeau said it was a "totally unacceptable" precondition. "I had to highlight there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause and obviously the visit didn't happen," Trudeau said. (Tampa Bay Times)

3/ American employers added 223,000 jobs in May, bringing the national unemployment rate to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent. Average hourly pay rose by 2.7 percent compared to last year, but pay rates remain below typical levels when the unemployment rate is this low. Some economists are concerned that Trump's aggressive actions on international trade could disrupt the recent economic progress, but most employers have not suspended hiring yet. (Associated Press / CNN Money)

4/ Trump broke with decades of protocol by publicly commenting on the jobs report data 69 minutes before they were released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Treasury yields shot up just seconds after Trump tweeted that he was "looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning." Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush, said Trump's tweet was "certainly a no-no. The advance info is sacrosanct – not to be shared." Labor Department rules state that executive branch employees are barred from publicly commenting on jobs reports until "at least one hour" after its official release. (Washington Post / Politico / ABC News)

  • Trump’s wildly inappropriate (and possibly corrupt) jobs report tweet, explained. (Vox)

5/ The Pentagon says 499 civilians were killed and 169 were injured in U.S. military operations during Trump's first year in office. The report also says that "more than 450 reports of civilian casualties from 2017 remained to be assessed," which suggests those numbers may be low. The report includes both air strikes and ground combat operations. There were also 11,585 more drone strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan last year than there were in 2016. (CNN)

6/ Jared Kushner's close friend Andrew Gerson has come under scrutiny from Robert Mueller's team. Mueller is interested in Gerson's supposed knowledge of meetings in January 2017 between Trump associates and foreign officials in the Seychelles. Gerson was in the Seychelles around the same time that Erik Prince secretly met with Russian and UAE officials, including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, also known as MBZ. Gerson met with MBZ and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who organized the meeting with Erik Prince. (NBC News / Daily Beast)

7/ Trump announced that the June 12 nuclear summit with North Korea is now back on, less than a week after he canceled it via letter to Kim Jong Un. "We’re over that," Trump told reporters, "totally over that, and now we’re going to deal and we’re really going to start a process." (New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

8/ Trump made 3,251 false or misleading statements during his first 497 days in office — an average of more than 6.5 false or misleading claims per day. During his first 100 days, Trump made an average of 4.9 claims a day. His average for May 2018 was about eight per day, including a record 35 false or misleading claims in a single day at his rally in Nashville on May 29. (Washington Post)


Notables

  1. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. recently interviewed James Comey as part of a probe into whether Andrew McCabe broke the law by lying to federal agents. The decision to interview Comey suggests prosecutors are seriously considering whether to charge McCabe with a crime. The Inspector General accused McCabe of lying to investigators on four occasions about authorizing a disclosure to the media. McCabe was under oath for three of those instances. (Washington Post)

  2. Scott Pruitt spent $1,560 on twelve custom fountain pens from a D.C. jewelry store called The Tiny Jewel Box. The exchange reveals that Pruitt's top aides were the ones signing off on such lavish purchases, contradicting Pruitt's previous claims. (Washington Post)

  3. A federal study found signs of sophisticated cellphone surveillance devices operating near the White House and other sensitive locations in the D.C. area last year. Authorities aren't sure who the culprit is or where it came from, but the breach is virtually unstoppable. (Washington Post)

  4. The price tag for the Mueller investigation so far is about $16.7 million, while the security and travel costs for Trump's visits to Mar-a-Lago have cost $17 million. (Washington Post)

  5. Trump called for Samantha Bee to lose her job over her comments about Ivanka Trump. Trump claimed there was a "total double standard" when it comes to the reaction to Bee's comments versus the reaction to Roseanne Barr's racist tweet. "Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show?" Trump tweeted. "A total double standard but that’s O.K., we are Winning, and will be doing so for a long time to come!" (ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)

  6. After receiving a full pardon from Trump for violating campaign finance laws, Dinesh D'Souza said his pardon is proof that Trump wants him to have "a bigger voice than ever" in the conservative movement. D'Souza on Fox and Friends: "The president said, 'Dinesh, you have been a great voice for freedom. And he said that 'I got to tell you man-to-man, you’ve been screwed.'" (The Hill)

  7. An independent candidate for Virginia's 10th Congressional District named Nathan Larson admitted he's a pedophile. Larson ran multiple online forums for pedophiles and misogynists, including incels. Larson has also bragged online about raping his ex-wife and wanting to have sex with their 3-year-old daughter. (HuffPost)

  8. At least eight white nationalists are running in 2018 for federal and state offices across the country. Many of them are running openly on messages of hate, including one who is preaching Holocaust denial and wants to make Chicago's neighborhoods 90 percent white. (NBC San Diego)

Day 497: Third-party status.

1/ Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe wrote a confidential memo about a May 2017 conversation he had with Rod Rosenstein regarding the firing of James Comey. The memo says Trump originally asked Rosenstein to reference Russia in the public memo used to justify firing Comey. McCabe thought that seemed like evidence that Comey's firing was actually about the Russia investigation and that Rosenstein was helping to provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton investigation. (New York Times)

2/ Trump repeatedly pressured Jeff Sessions to reclaim control over the Russia investigation on at least four separate occasions. Three of those occasions were in-person, and the fourth was over the phone. The constant pressure made several other officials uncomfortable at the time, because they felt it was improper and could present its own legal and political problems. Two sources familiar with the conversations said Trump never directly ordered Sessions to reinsert himself into the investigation, but would instead ask Sessions whether he had "thought about" stepping back in. (Axios)

  • Trump once again claimed that he did not fire James Comey because of the Russia investigation, despite his earlier admissions that the investigation was at least part of his decision-making. "Not that it matters," Trump tweeted, "but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!" (The Hill)

3/ The White House announced a new 10% tariff on metal imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, which supply nearly half of all U.S. metal imports. The steel and aluminum tariffs will go into effect at midnight on Thursday. The European Union immediately announced that it would impose countermeasures against the U.S. as a response. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)

4/ Trump is preparing to block German luxury carmakers from the United States. Trump told French president Emmanuel Macron last month that he planned to stop Mercedes-Benz from driving down Fifth Avenue in New York. No further details are currently available about the specific policies Trump might pursue in order to effectively prevent German automakers from selling in the U.S. (NBC News / WirtschaftsWoche)

5/ Trump offered a full pardon to conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza for violating campaign finance laws. D'Souza illegally used straw donors to funnel additional money into the campaign of a GOP Senate candidate in 2012, and pleaded guilty to the charges in 2014. He was sentenced to five years of probation and a $30,000 fine. "Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today," Trump tweeted. "He was treated very unfairly by our government!" (Washington Post)

6/ Trump is also considering pardoning Martha Stewart commuting the sentence of former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Trump brought up the commutation and additional pardon while talking to reporters on Air Force One, shortly after he announced D'Souza's pardon via Twitter. Blagojevich began a 14-year prison sentence for corruption in 2012 and was scheduled to get out in 2024. Stewart was convicted in 2004 of obstruction of justice and lying to the government about her insider trading. Blagojevich is a former contestant on "The Apprentice," and Trump said Stewart "used to be one of my biggest fans." (Associated Press)

  • President Trump keeps pardoning his political friends. Beyond breaking the seal on the pardon power much earlier in his presidency, publicly teasing them before carrying through, and so far using them for very political ends, Trump's pardons are also different because they have occurred one at a time. (CNN)

7/ Audio recordings of Michael Cohen making legal threats to a reporter have been released to the public for the first time. The recording features Cohen threatening a then-Daily Beast reporter with legal action in 2015 over an article the reporter wrote about one of Cohen's clients at the time. "Mark my words," Cohen warns, "I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we're in the courthouse, and I will take you for every penny you still don't have." Cohen continues: "And I will come after the Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know." (NPR)

  • The FBI is reconstructing shredded documents seized last month in the raids on Michael Cohen's apartment, office, and hotel room. A small amount of shredded materials were seized, and agents are currently working to piece together the contents of at least one paper shredder that was recovered during the raid. (The Hill)

8/ The largest federal employees union in the country is suing Trump to block an executive order that severely restricts the time employees are allowed to spend on union activities while on the clock. The suit, filed by the American Federation of Government Employees, claims the president's order violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and goes beyond the constitutional powers of the executive branch. (Washington Post)

9/ The White House is not cooperating with the Government Accountability Office, the government's chief watchdog. The GAO's general counsel sent a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn earlier this month and said attorneys for the White House and the National Security Council "will not respond to inquiries or otherwise engage with GAO staff during the course of our reviews." The GAO says it has inquired about vacancies at the inspector general's office, the president's security and travel costs, and the NSC's conflict-prevention efforts abroad, but staff have "either refused to have any discussion … or not responded at all." (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Mike Pompeo's meeting with a high-ranking North Korean official ended two hours earlier than planned because the talks "went well" and "made progress," according to a U.S. official. (Associated Press)

  2. The White House once cited the FBI's informant in Trump's campaign in order to help advance Trump's trade agenda with China. A White House press release from August 14, 2017 features Stefan Halper as a prominent voice of support for Trump's call to investigate allegations that China was stealing U.S. intellectual property. (Politico)

  3. Newly-released voter registration data from California show the Republican party trailing behind both Democrats and "no party preference" voters. The California Republican Party has effectively been relegated to third-party status, falling behind independent voters by at least 73,000, leaving them with only 25.1 percent of registered California voters. (Politico)

  4. The White House has been sending its talking points about the Iran deal to foreign policy heavyweights on both sides of the aisle, including former Obama administration officials and advisers for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. White House communications aide Kelly Sadler forgot to BCC recipients of an email blast about Trump's Iran strategy, revealing the uncharacteristically inclusive email list and confusing frequent critics of the administration. (Politico)

  5. Samantha Bee apologized for calling Ivanka Trump a "feckless cunt" during a segment on her show about immigration issues. Bee was referring to a photo Ivanka posted that depicts her holding her child amidst a flurry of news stories about migrant children being separated from their mothers at the southern border. (New York Times / Daily Beast)

  6. Joy Reid's blog published a Photoshopped image of John McCain as the Virginia Tech shooter in October 2007. The post is one of several archived items from Reid's now-defunct website that have continued to resurface in recent months. (BuzzFeed News)

Day 496: "An absolute, total tool."

1/ Robert Mueller is investigating Trump's request to Jeff Sessions that he reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in March 2017. Trump berated Sessions in public and in private over his decision to step away, but Sessions refused Trump's request. Mueller is investigating the previously unreported confrontation as part of the ongoing obstruction of justice probe. Mueller's interest in Sessions suggests the investigation may be even more broad than Trump's interactions with and subsequent firing of James Comey. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump again expresses regret for choosing Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Trump said Wednesday that he wishes he had picked someone else to be attorney general. (Washington Post)

2/ Federal prosecutors investigating Michael Cohen are set to receive 1 million files from three of Cohen's cell phones that were seized last month in raids on his apartment, office, and hotel room. A court filing submitted by special master Barbara Jones on Tuesday says investigators for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York have already received nearly 300,000 pieces of potential evidence from the raids. So far, only 252 seized items have been flagged by Cohen's or Trump's attorneys as privileged materials. An additional 292,006 items were turned over to prosecutors on May 23. (Washington Post)

3/ A federal judge in Manhattan ordered Michael Cohen's lawyers to complete their review of the huge trove of seized documents and data within two weeks. Judge Kimba Wood warned that she would allow the government to take control of the review process if Cohen's attorney's don't meet her June 15 deadline. The purpose of the review is to determine whether any of the materials seized by the FBI last month should be protected under attorney-client privilege. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to interview Roger Stone. The committee also wants Stone's attorneys to hand over certain electronic communications. The email from the committee to Stone's lawyers includes a list of search terms it wants his attorneys to use to identify which communications to hand over. Stone says he hopes the interview with the committee will be public, and that he has "already begun to think about what to wear." (Daily Beast)

5/ Trump bragged about a classified battle between U.S. forces and Russian mercenaries in Syria while speaking to donors at a closed-door fundraiser. Trump said he was amazed by the actions of American F-18 pilots, suggested that the strikes lasted "10 minutes," and claimed they killed up to 300 Russians. The details of the battle remain classified. (Politico)

6/ The Trump administration will impose restrictions on Chinese visas as part of its attempt to counter alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property by Beijing. Under the new policy, U.S. consular officers may limit how long the visas will be valid, instead of simply issuing them for the maximum possible length. Chinese graduate students studying robotics, aviation, and other high-tech fields will be limited to one-year visas. Chinese citizens seeking visas will require clearance from multiple U.S. agencies in order to work as researchers or managers at certain companies. The restrictions are set to go into effect on June 11. (Associated Press)

7/ A new U.S. intelligence assessment concludes that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear arsenal any time soon. The CIA analysis is consistent with expert opinion on the subject, but it conflicts with Trump's recent claims that Kim intends to give up his nuclear stockpile in the near future. The assessment does note, however, that Kim Jong Un might open up a burger joint inside North Korea as a display of good will. (NBC News)

8/ Senior House Republican Trey Gowdy said the "FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got" from an informant inside Trump's 2016 campaign. Gowdy attended last week's highly classified Justice Department briefing about the FBI informant who approached multiple members of Trump's foreign policy team, including Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Contrary to Trump and Giuliani's "spygate" conspiracy claims, Gowdy said the effort to place an informant inside the campaign had "nothing to do with Donald Trump." (Politico / Daily Beast / Washington Post)

9/ Trump accused Democrats of siding with MS-13 gang members over the American people during a rally in Nashville. "They don’t want the wall, they want open borders," Trump said. "They’re more interested in taking care of criminals than they are in taking care of you." Trump also reiterated his claim that immigrants who commit crimes are "animals," turning it into a chant for the crowd: “What was the name?” Trump called to the crowd. “Animals!” they shouted back. Trump also called Marsha Blackburn's Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen "an absolute, total tool" of Chuck Schumer, and referred to the House Democratic leader as "the MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi." (New York Times)

10/ Federal bank regulators announced a plan to considerably weaken the Volcker Rule, which was put in place after the financial crisis to prevent risky trading. The rule also dictates that banks can't be the ones to make the rules about what constitutes a risky trade. The revisions make it so banks no longer have to prove that each trade serves a clear purpose — that it's not just a speculative bet. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens resigned after a series of personal and political scandals. He gave a brief but defiant statement at the governor's office on Tuesday: "I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws," he said. Greiten's resignation will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. (Washington Post)

  2. Kim Kardashian will meet with Trump at the White House and ask him to pardon a woman serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense. The meeting is the result of months of back-channel talks between Kardashian and Jared Kushner. (Vanity Fair)

  3. The Russian journalist who was believed to have been killed yesterday in Kiev showed up at a press conference today, very much alive. Arkady Babchenko apologized to friends and family who believed he was dead. "I'm still alive," he said. Babchenko's death was faked as part of a sting operation by the Ukrainian Security Service. (NPR / Associated Press)

  4. Ivanka Trump abruptly left a conference call about an upcoming fitness event after reporters asked her about her company's trademarks in China. A White House official previously said Ivanka would take a few questions before leaving for a meeting, but reporters started asking questions about the trademarks, which she refused to answer. Ivanka was gone by the time they got around to questions about her father's fitness regime. (New York Times / CBS News)

  5. Paul Manafort's friends launched a legal defense fund to help Manafort fight the charges brought against him by the special counsel. In an email announcement, fund organizers wrote, "The Defense Fund is urging anyone who values civil liberties and wishes to show the 'Deep State' that they cannot exert their will on ordinary citizens, to join them in supporting the Manafort family as they grapple against the Special Counsel to clear their name." (NPR / BuzzFeed News)

  6. Trump complained that Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, apologized to Valerie Jarret for Roseanne's racist tweets but hasn't apologized to Trump for all the mean jokes people have made about him on Disney-owned networks. During a press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders went through a laundry list of things Trumps feels warrant an apology from Iger. (Boston Globe / Salon)

Day 495: 1,475 children.

1/ The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant children between October and December of 2017. The acting assistant secretary of the Administration of Children and Families, Steven Wagner, claimed during testimony in April that the agency was not legally responsible for the 1,475 missing children. "I understand that it has been [the Department of Health and Human Service's] long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care," Wagner said. The children are not lost, said Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, their sponsors "simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made." The comments come as the Trump administration have been defending the policy of separating immigrant children from their families as part of increased border enforcement efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNN / Reuters / NPR)

  • How federal authorities track undocumented minors. "My experience both in the Obama administration and under prior administrations, both Republican and Democratic," said former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under Obama, Bob Carey, "was that the law was not interpreted in the same way. And children were not being separated from their parents unless there was a very strong body of evidence that indicated that they were not their parents." (NPR)

  • ACLU: Border patrol beat, kicked and threatened migrant children with sexual abuse during Obama administration. Migrant children under the care of United States Customs and Border Protection were allegedly beaten, threatened with sexual violence and repeatedly assaulted while in custody between 2009 and 2014, according to a report from the ACLU. (Newsweek)

2/ The White House said it "continues to actively prepare" for the proposed-but-canceled summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. White House officials have been characterizing the cancellation letter Trump sent to Kim as a negotiating tactic, one that is purportedly designed to bring the North back to the table. (Associated Press)

  • A nuclear weapons expert says North Korean disarmament could take up to 15 years to complete. Former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, Siegfried S. Hecker, is warning that North Korea's sprawling atomic complex could take 15 years to dismantle, and argues that the best the United States can hope for is a phased denuclearization that goes after the most dangerous parts of the North’s program first. (New York Times)

3/ A top North Korean official is headed to New York to discuss the possibility of reviving the canceled nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un. Kim Yong Chol is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee on inter-Korean relations, and is expected to meet with Mike Pompeo this week to try and dispel skepticism and develop a joint agenda that would put the June 12 nuclear summit back on the table. (Associated Press / New York Times / ABC News)

4/ Rep. Thomas Garrett of Virginia announced that he is an alcoholic and will not seek reelection in November. Unnamed former staffers recently accused Garrett and his wife of mistreating them and making them into their personal servants while they worked for Garrett's office. Garrett insists his departure from politics was spurred solely by his addiction. Garrett will be the 48th Republican to retire or refuse to seek reelection to the House this year. (Washington Post)

5/ Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania will not seek reelection in November, because "all I do is answer questions about Donald Trump." Costello, a Republican from Pennsylvania's 6th congressional district, originally announced in March that he would not be running for Congress again this year. "No matter what I say or do," Costello said recently, "I feel all I do is answer questions about Donald Trump rather than health insurance or tax policy." Costello also cited the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision to redraw the his district as a major factor in his decision not to run again. (CNN / The Hill)

6/ Trump will impose investment restrictions against China, file litigation against China at the World Trade Organization, and impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods by the end of June. The trade dispute between Trump and China had become somewhat muted in recent weeks, and Washington and Beijing announced a tentative solution to their dispute just days ago. Trump's decision, however, contradicts that truce and is seen as an escalation in an ongoing tit-for-tat between the two largest economies in the world. (Politico / CNBC)

7/ China awarded Ivanka Trump's company seven new trademarks just days before her father vowed to find a way to save the Chinese telecom giant ZTE, even though the company violated U.S. sanctions against countries like Iran and North Korea. The trademarks span a wide range of businesses, including books, housewares, and cushions. Ivanka Trump already held more than a dozen trademarks in China, as well as multiple pending trademark applications. Her father holds more than 100 trademarks in China. (New York Times / The Guardian)

8/ More than 60 House Democrats are calling for an ethics probe into the "extremely short time frame" between Trump's pledge to save ZTE and a $500 million loan made by the Chinese government to an Indonesian theme park that includes Trump Organization properties. Trump vowed to save ZTE just three days after China approved the massive loan to the theme park, which will include a Trump-branded hotel and golf course, as well as residences and shops. Democrats sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics calling for an investigation into the timing of Trump's statements. "We believe that these events raise several potential constitutional and ethical violations," the letter reads. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island tweeted out the full text of the letter on Sunday. (Newsweek)

9/ Trump claimed that Robert Mueller's team will meddle in the 2018 midterm elections in favor of Democrats. "The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt," Trump tweeted, "will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls. There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!" (CNN / Washington Post)

10/ Giuliani admitted that Trump's "Spygate" conspiracy theory is part of a public relations campaign aimed at discrediting the Mueller investigation in the eyes of the public. Dana Bash pressed Giuliani to acknowledge that he and Trump were using a "very specific, very political strategy to undermine [the Mueller] investigation" and using political tactics to shape public opinion. "It is for public opinion," Giuliani admitted, "because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach." He continued: "Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury is — as it should be — is the American people." (New York Magazine / The Guardian / CNN)

poll/ Roughly 4 out of 5 gun owners and non-gun owners in the U.S. support the following gun control measures: universal background checks, stronger accountability for missing guns, a safety test for concealed carry permits, improved mental health reporting, preventing people with temporary domestic violence restraining orders from obtaining guns, and a civil process that allows families to petition the court to remove a firearm from someone deemed to be at serious risk of harming themselves or others. (Reuters)

poll/ Twenty-two percent of Republicans think Trump provides somewhat or very little moral leadership. Fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that, and 60% of Independents and 91% of Democrats feel the same way. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Former President George H.W. Bush was taken to a hospital in Maine on Sunday after he experienced low blood pressure and fatigue. Bush will likely remain in the hospital for observation over the next few days. “The former president is awake and alert, and not in any discomfort,” a family spokesperson wrote on Twitter. (Reuters)

  2. Rudy Giuliani was booed at Yankee Stadium when the announcer wished him a happy 74th birthday over the loudspeaker. (NY Daily News)

  3. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Arkansas' restrictive abortion law. The law requires providers of medication-based abortions, which use pills to induce abortions in the first nine weeks of pregnancy, to have contracts with doctors who have admitting privileges at a hospital in the state. (New York Times)

  4. The Supreme Court ruled that in general, police must get a warrant in order to search someone's driveway. The Court ruled that Officer David Rhodes violated the law when he entered the property of a Virginia motorcyclist without a warrant or an invitation. (New York Times / Collins v. Virginia)

  5. The Trump administration refused to acknowledge the conclusions of the scientific community when it comes to dealing with climate change. An internal White House memo revealed the only three options the administration is considering when it comes to dealing with federal climate science reports. They are: (1) consider "debating" the established climate science; (2) cast doubt on scientists' conclusions; and (3) simply ignore those conclusions. (The Guardian)

  6. A new Harvard study estimates at least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria. The official U.S. government death toll still only lists 64 people. (Washington Post)

  7. Roseanne Barr tweeted that former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was a cross between Planet of the Apes and the Muslim Brotherhood. Barr later apologized on Twitter, but ABC still cancelled the show "Roseanne" hours after the racist tweet and her subsequent apology. (Snopes / NPR / New York Times / ABC News)

  8. A GOP Congresswoman from Tennessee said pornography was a "big part" of the reason for the recent spike in school shootings. Rep. Diane Black: “It’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there,” she said. “All of this is available without parental guidance. I think that is a big part of the root cause.” (HuffPost)

Day 491: A colossal waste.

1/ Mitch McConnell said he supports the Mueller investigation and that nothing in Thursday's secret briefing on the Russia probe changed his mind. "The two investigations going on that I think will give us the answers to the questions that you raise — the [inspector general] investigation in the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation," McConnell said. "I support both of them, and I don't really have anything to add to this subject based upon the Gang of Eight briefing that we had today, which was classified." (NPR / NBC News)

  • After a closed-door briefing with top Justice Department officials, Congressional Democrats said there is "no evidence" that the FBI placed a spy in the Trump campaign. "Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols," said Adam Schiff. (The Hill)

  • Lindsey Graham: "A confidential informant is not a spy." Graham undercut Trump during an interview and issued a subtly strong rebuke of Trump's evidence-free claim that the FBI was “spying” on his presidential campaign. (Washington Post)

2/ The head of the national Border Patrol union called Trump's decision to deploy the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border "a colossal waste of resources." Roughly 1,600 National Guard troops were deployed to the border in April. "We have seen no benefit," said union president Brandon Judd. Another 750 troops may soon be added to fill support roles and the total deployment could reach nearly 4,000 troops, according to Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis. (Los Angeles Times)

3/ Trump wanted to call off the North Korean summit before Kim Jong Un could beat him to the punch. "There was no hint of this yesterday," said a person briefed on the summit preparations. Defense Secretary James Mattis was not involved in the discussions on Wednesday about canceling the meeting, but Trump said he called Mattis about it Thursday morning. The decision happened so quickly that the White House was unable to give congressional leaders and key allies advance notice, and the letter to Kim was sent out while more than two dozen foreign journalists and several U.S. citizens were still inside North Korea covering the demolition of a nuclear test site. (NBC News / Politico)

  • A day after he bailed on a summit with North Korea’s leader, Trump is now saying that the meeting could still take place after all. “We’ll see what happens. We are talking to them now,” Trump said. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.” He added: "It could even be the 12th." (Washington Post)

  • Trump’s cancellation of the summit with Kim raises fears of renewed tensions and destabilization between the two countries. Trump left the door open for the summit to be rescheduled, but senior White House aides said rescheduling the meeting was highly unlikely, at least not any time soon. (Washington Post)

  • ‘A lot of dial tones’: The inside story of how Trump’s North Korea summit fell apart. “Trump has a morbid fear of being humiliated and shamed," said Tony Schwartz, who co-authored "The Art of the Deal" with Trump. "This is showing who’s the biggest and the strongest, so he is exquisitely sensitive to the possibility that he would end up looking weak and small. There is nothing more unacceptable to Trump than that." (Washington Post)

4/ Mueller's team has been investigating Roger Stone's finances as part of the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the 2016 election. Mueller has questioned Stone's associates about his finances, including his tax returns. Stone claims he has not been contacted by the special counsel's office, and that he played no role in colluding with Russia. (CNN)

5/ Roger Stone tried to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign. Emails revealed that Stone used a mutual acquaintance as an intermediary between himself and Assange in order to ask Assange for any emails related to Clinton's role in disrupting a purported peace deal in Libya while she was serving as secretary of state in 2011. Stone testified last year that he had only "wanted confirmation" that Assange had information about Clinton in his possession. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • Assange's refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London is "in jeopardy." Sources say his current situation is "unusually bad" and that Assange could leave the embassy "any day now," either because he will be forced out or made to feel so restricted that he might just choose to leave on his own. (CNN)

6/ A Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin met with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower 11 days before Trump's inauguration. Viktor Vekselberg met with Cohen to discuss their mutual desire to improve Russia's relationship with the U.S. under the incoming Trump administration, according to Andrew Intrater. Intrater is an American businessman who invests money on behalf of Vekselberg and was present at the meeting in question. A few days after Trump's inauguration, Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, signed a $1 million consulting contract with Cohen. (New York Times)

7/ The Trump administration told lawmakers that it has reached a deal to keep Chinese telecom giant ZTE alive. The deal would allow ZTE to pay a fine as punishment for violating international sanctions against Iran and North Korea. ZTE would also have to make changes to its management team, hire American compliance officers and place them at the firm. In exchange, ZTE would be again able to do business with American companies. The deal is expected to face considerable resistance from Congress. (New York Times)

8/ Someone has been circulating letters to dozens of wealthy entrepreneurs in China and offering access to the Trump administration in exchange for a $100,000 contribution to Trump's reelection campaign. Republican Party officials say they had nothing to do with the letter, which is one of at least three such offers that have been circulated in the past week. The letter promises a handshake and a one-on-one photo with the president in exchange for $100,000 donation — a “VVIP” trip “to be remembered for a lifetime.” (Washington Post)

9/ Internal documents from inside a shadowy Israeli firm reveal details of a plot to discredit Obama officials involved in the Iran deal and, ultimately, the deal itself. Black Cube operatives befriended architects of the deal and their associates and tried to obtain evidence of improper behavior, including financial or sexual impropriety. Black Cube has two arms, one for corporate clients and one for government and political actors, and is the same Israeli private intelligence and investigation firm hired by Harvey Weinstein to intimidate and disparage his accusers. The plan to sabotage the Iran deal is the first public example of the firm’s attempts to meddle in U.S. politics. (NBC News)


NOTABLES.

  1. The suspect in the shooting that injured three people at an Indiana middle school is now in custody. At least three people, including a teacher and a student, were injured in the shooting. (CNN)

  2. A group of Republican lawmakers and advocacy groups plan to release a new proposal in yet another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a different plan. The replacement plan is aimed at giving individual states more control over healthcare policy and is the product of eight months of behind-the-scenes planning by a coalition of conservative organizations. (Wall Street Journal / MarketWatch)

  3. Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to police and was arrested by the NYPD on charges of rape, criminal sex acts, and other lower level sex abuse and sexual misconduct charges. The charges stem from his 2004 encounters with actress Lucia Evans and another woman who has not been identified or spoken publicly. Evans confirmed that she was pressing charges. "At a certain point," Evans said, "you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind." (NBC News / CBS News / CNN)

  4. Former staffers for Republican Congressman Tom Garrett say Garrett and his wife made them their personal servants, often ordering them to pick up groceries, clothes, and even dog poop — all during work hours. Garrett and his wife are both known to have explosive tempers, and the aides say they were afraid that Garrett might prevent them from advancing in their careers if they refused his or his wife’s orders. (Politico)

  5. Trump nominated immigration hard-liner Ronald Mortensen to become the next assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Mortensen has been highly critical of the DACA program. Among other things, Mortensen has claimed that "Illegal aliens commit felonies in order to get jobs," that "illegal immigration and high levels of identity theft go hand-in-hand," and that "children are prime targets" of identity theft committed by undocumented immigrants. (CNN)

  6. The Republican nominee for a US House seat in Illinois is a 9/11 truther who once claimed that Beyonce had ties to the Illuminati. Bill Fawell, who is running against incumbent Democrat Cheri Bustos in Illinois' 17th District, won an uncontested primary in March. Fawell said Jay-Z "has a long history of serving up the godless Illuminati" and shared a YouTube video that claimed Beyonce's halftime performance at the Super Bowl used Illuminati symbolism. (CNN)

  7. Montana Democrats called for a Congressional ethics probe of Rep. Greg Gianforte to determine whether he "violated House Ethics Rules by making false statements to the police and the public" regarding Gianforte's assault of a reporter and other actions last year. (CNN)

  8. A turf war between Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions drove the director of the federal prison system to resign. Mark Inch told Rod Rosenstein that he was tired of administration officials flouting "departmental norms," and complained that Sessions had excluded him from major staffing, budget, and policy decisions. Inch also felt excluded by Kushner when it came to drafting prison reform legislation. (New York Times)

🙃 WTF, right?

Don't forget: We're off next Monday for Memorial Day. We'll pick things back up again on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This post originally stated that Vekselberg met with Cohen 11 days before Trump's election. Vekselberg actually met with Cohen 11 days before Trump's inauguration.

Day 490: "They're not innocent."

1/ Trump canceled the planned nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and accused North Korea of "tremendous anger and open hostility." In a letter to Kim, Trump wrote: "Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting." Trump was apparently referring to North Korea's recent statement, in which it called Mike Pence a "political dummy." Most of the letter uses seemingly friendly language, but Trump also appeared to include a veiled threat that the U.S. might someday use its nuclear weapons against North Korea, if necessary: "You talk about your nuclear capabilities," Trump wrote, "but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used." (CNBC / NPR)

  • The letter Trump sent to Kim Jong Un canceling the summit, annotated. (Washington Post)

  • Trump dictated 'every word' of the letter canceling North Korea summit. (The Hill)

  • North Korea demolished its nuclear test site just hours before Trump announced that he was canceling the proposed nuclear summit. North Korea officially closed down the site with a series of explosions that caused landslides near the tunnel entrances to the facility. The closure of the site is not irreversible, and several follow-up measures would be required in order to ensure the facility meets Trump's demands for true denuclearization. Kim also did not invite international nuclear weapons inspectors to the demolition. (Associated Press)

2/ Trump says the U.S. military "is ready if necessary" to respond to any provocation by North Korea after Trump cancelled the proposed North Korean nuclear summit. "I've spoken to General Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Trump said during a press conference, "and our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world that has been greatly enhanced recently, as you all know, is ready if necessary." Trump also said he consulted with Japan and South Korea which, according to Trump, are prepared to respond in the event that Kim Jong Un commits any "foolish or reckless acts" in response to Trump calling off the summit. (NBC News)

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-In said he was "very perplexed" by Trump's decision to cancel the summit. Moon called the cancellation "very regrettable." He continued: "Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed." (NPR / Yonhap)

  • The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 250 points after Trump called off the North Korean nuclear summit. The S&P 500 fell 0.9 percent as a continued drop in oil prices and bond yields dragged down energy and financials stocks, respectively. (CNBC)

  • The commemorative North Korea summit coins are now being sold at a discount. The White House Gift Shop put its commemorative coins on sale for $19.95 — down from $24.95 — after Trump announced he was canceling the proposed summit. (Daily Beast)

3/ Trump said migrant children entering the country at the southern border are "not innocent," and warned that letting them in exposes the nation to increased gang crime. "They look so innocent," Trump said at a roundtable meeting at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. He added: "They're not innocent." (Washington Post)

4/ Trump insisted that he will not sign any immigration bill that emerges from Congress unless it includes "a real wall" on the southern border. Trump was responding to an ongoing effort in the House to force a vote on certain bills aimed at protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Factions of the House GOP are at odds over certain provisions in the various bills under consideration, including whether or not to provide permanent legal status for "Dreamers" under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Washington Post)

  • House Republicans holds last-ditch immigration talks as internal showdown looms. House GOP leaders have temporarily halted an internal rebellion to force votes next month on protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation while they negotiate with the GOP renegades to find a different path forward. (Washington Post)

  • The House broke for an 11-day recess as majority Republicans remain deadlocked over proposed legislation to protect "Dreamers" from deportation. So far, 23 House Republicans have signed a petition to force a debate and votes on a series of immigration bills as soon as next month. (Reuters)

5/ Trump called for sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration legal process and questioned why immigrants should go through the legal system at all. "Other countries have what's called security people," Trump said. "People who stand there and say you can't come in. We have thousands of judges and they need thousands of more judges. The whole system is corrupt." Trump also suggested eliminating courts and judges from the immigration process: "Whoever heard of a system where you put people through trials? Where do these judges come from?" He continued: "So it's ridiculous, we're going to change the system. We have no choice for the good of our country." (CNN)

6/ Trump said athletes who refuse to stand for the national anthem shouldn't be allowed to play and suggested that maybe they "shouldn't be in the country." Trump said he doesn't like the provision in the NFL's new policy that allows players to remain in the locker room while the anthem is played. "I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms," Trump said, "but still I think it's good. You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe you shouldn't be in the country." (Washington Post / NPR / Fox News)

7/ The FBI seized control of a key server in Russia's global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers. One of the goals of the operation was to use the information from the seized server to build a comprehensive list of victims in order to short-circuit the Kremlin's ability to reinfect targets. The FBI went after a complicated malware program called "VPN Filter" that has been linked to the Russian hacking group responsible for the breach of the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. (Daily Beast)

8/ Trump signed the largest rollback of federal banking regulations since the 2008 financial crisis. The legislation exempts scores of banks from strict federal regulations put in place under the Dodd-Frank Act. The bill eases restrictions on all but the largest banks and raises the standard by which banks are designated too important to fail by $250 billion, up from $50 billion. It also eases the reporting requirements for mortgage loan data for the overwhelming majority of banks. The bill was co-authored by three Senate Democrats and passed the Senate in March before clearing the House on Tuesday. (The Hill / CNN / Chicago Tribune / CNBC)


Notables.

  1. An ally of Vladimir Putin suggested that the meeting in the Seychelles with Blackwater founder Erik Prince was more than a simple chance encounter "over a beer," as Prince told Congress. Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian fund manager who was present at the January 2017 meeting, said he had wanted to meet with Prince in order to improve relations between the U.S and Russia. (ABC News)

  2. Jared Kushner spent nearly seven hours with Mueller's team in April for his second interview with the special counsel. Both times, Kushner met with investigators as a witness, not a target, of the investigation. The most recent interview focused on the 2016 campaign, the transition, the firing of James Comey, and other topics. Kushner's financial dealings and family business were not discussed. (ABC News)

  3. GOP Rep. Tom Garrett may not run for reelection in November. Garrett abruptly split with his chief of staff on Tuesday and has been unable to raise as much money as his Democratic opponent in Virginia's 5th congressional district. (Politico)

  4. Newly obtained documents and interviews provide the first public on-the-ground accounting of a battle between American forces and around 500 pro-Syrian government forces and Russian mercenaries. The incident was one of the single-bloodiest battles the American military has faced in Syria since deploying to the country to fight the Islamic State. (New York Times)

  5. Democrats will be allowed to join Republicans at today's White House briefing on the secret FBI source who aided Mueller's Russia probe. After a day of negotiations, the White House reversed its earlier decision to only invite Republican lawmakers the briefing. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump is considering imposing new tariffs on imported cars. Trump told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider an investigation into additional protections for domestic automakers, saying American auto workers have "waited long enough." (NPR)

  7. Trump's ban on global abortion funding has led to more abortions. Healthcare workers in Kenya say Trump's "Mexico City" policy of cutting abortion funding has left thousands of women in Kenya without access to contraception, forcing many to rely on risky, backstreet abortions as a form of birth control. (CNN)

😨 WTF, right?

Day 489: Taxi King.

1/ Michael Cohen's business partner took a plea deal that requires him to cooperate with the government as a potential witness in state and federal investigations. Evgeny Freidman is a Russian immigrant known as the "Taxi King," and he specifically agreed to assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter. Freidman was disbarred earlier this month, has been accused of failing to pay $5 million in taxes, and is facing multiple counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny. Freidman's cooperation is seen as potential leverage to pressure Cohen into working with Mueller's team on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNBC / Vox)

  • Cohen distances himself from business associate who struck plea deal. (The Hill)

  • Who is Evgeny Freidman? Michael Cohen's "Taxi King" business partner may be key to Russia investigation. (Newsweek)

2/ Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to arrange talks between Trump and the president of Ukraine. The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting on behalf of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. The meetings occurred at the White House last June. Cohen has denied the allegation. There is no indication that Trump was aware of the payment. (BBC)

3/ Robert Mueller asked the courts to begin the sentencing process for former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Mueller asked the judge to order a standard investigative report and to begin moving forward with sentencing process. The judge will ultimately decide what Papadopoulos' sentence will be. Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the special counsel for months, but the move suggests that his cooperation may no longer be necessary. (CNN)

4/ A federal district court judge ruled that Trump can't block people on Twitter over their political views. Judge Buchwald of the Southern District of New York said Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people based on their political opinions amounts to viewpoint discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (The Hill)

5/ Trump said he constantly bashes the press in order to "demean" and "discredit" journalists so the public won't believe "negative stories" about him. Lesley Stahl says she asked Trump, "Why are you doing it over and over?" She continued: "And he said: 'You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.'" (Yahoo! Finance)

6/ The White House did not invite Democrats to a private briefing on the FBI informant involved in the investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russians during and after the 2016 election. Two senior House Republicans were invited to the briefing, which was coordinated by John Kelly and will be held on Thursday. Democrats are demanding that Democratic lawmakers be included in the briefing. Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said Democrats weren't invited because they didn't specifically ask for details about the informant. (Politico)

  • Donald Trump turned a rumor into a full-blown government conspiracy in just 5 days. Trump went from having heard a rumor about the FBI's use of a confidential source to claiming that it was an intentional and political attempt to install a "spy" within his ranks on behalf of Obama's Justice Department. (Politico)

7/ John Kelly signed off on a plan to fire a handful of mid-level and junior aides after Trump demanded changes to the White House communications team in order to limit the leaks coming out of his administration. The plan would remove some of the department's low-level employees, while keeping high-level staffers such as Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and other officials on board. (Politico)

8/ Jared Kushner’s prison reform plan passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The "First Step Act," which has Trump's support, passed with a 360-59 vote. The bill would provide training programs for prisoners and would be the first major bipartisan success for the Trump administration. Mitch McConnell, however, has indicated that he is unlikely to bring up the bill in the Senate unless Republicans can find a way to resolve their differences. (Politico)

  • Congress’s prison reform bill, explained: The First Step Act has Trump’s support — but faces some Democratic opposition. (Vox)

  • Is the “First Step Act” real reform? The bill addresses the dire need for rehabilitative services in the federal prison system, proves there is strong bipartisan support for at least modest criminal justice reform and underscores a strategic debate that has split the Democratic Party. (The Marshall Project)

9/ Scott Pruitt spent at least $9,600 on decorations and furniture for his personal office. Pruitt bought Smithsonian artwork, a refurbished desk, and other framed items. He paid the Smithsonian Institution $1,950 in labor and delivery charges to rent out three art pieces for his executive suite, and spent more than $2,500 on frames for various items, including a photo of himself with Trump and an American flag. The internal document with the list of expenditures also confirmed earlier reports that Pruitt spent $2,963 on a standing "captain's" desk and $2,075 on a different desk. (The Hill)

poll/ A majority of Americans — 59% — don't think Mueller's investigation into Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign has uncovered evidence of any crimes, even though the special counsel has already secured five guilty pleas and issued 17 criminal indictments. (Vox / Navigator Research)

poll/ Thirty-six percent of voters say they would vote for Trump over a generic Democratic candidate in 2020. Forty-four percent would choose the generic Democrat, and 20 percent of voters remain undecided. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Jared Kushner received his security clearance after a year of background checks conducted by the FBI. (New York Times / CNN)

  2. NFL teams will be fined if players kneel during the national anthem. Players will be allowed to remain in the locker room during the anthem, but their teams will be fined by the NFL if they go out and kneel on the field. (New York Times)

  3. Mike Pompeo says the U.S. will fight back against what he called "continued efforts" by Russia to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections. Pompeo did not provide any details as to what the "appropriate measures" would entail, but he said the U.S. has so far been unable to establish "effective deterrence" to halt Russia's efforts. (Associated Press)

  4. Senate negotiators have released legislation to overhaul policies for handling sexual harassment complaints in Congress. The deal includes requirements that lawmakers be held personally liable for some financial settlements, and requires lawmakers to repay any awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment that they personally commit. (NPR)

  5. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says he is ready to fill the prosecutorial void left in the wake of Eric Schneiderman’s sudden resignation earlier this month. Grewal has jurisdiction over 20 Trump properties. (Politico)

  6. A sinkhole appeared on the White House lawn near the office of White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gridley. (CBS News)

  7. Michael Avenatti's law firm was hit with a $10-million judgment in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. (Los Angeles Times)

  8. Trump offered his support to Tomi Lahren after someone threw a drink at the Fox News pundit while she was eating at a restaurant in Minneapolis over the weekend. (Washington Post)

  9. Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination to become the next governor of Georgia, making her the first African American woman to be a major party nominee in the state. (New York Times)

😳 WTF, right?

Day 488: Too inconvenient.

1/ Trump uses White House cellphones that lack the proper security features required to protect his communications, thus leaving him open to potential hacking or surveillance. Trump uses at least two different iPhones — one for calls and one for Twitter and news — and has resisted staff efforts to beef up phone security. Aides have urged Trump to swap out his Twitter phone on a monthly basis, but Trump argues the disruption is "too inconvenient." Trump has gone as long as five months without a Twitter-phone security check-up. (Politico)

  • Trump is essentially doing the same thing he demanded Hillary Clinton be locked up for doing. Trump's actions are identical to Clinton’s, but Trump's situation is an easier target for foreign hackers, especially since Trump is particularly vulnerable to espionage and blackmail due to his concealed business interests and alleged adultery. (New York Magazine)

  • Trump's communication security practices illustrate the clear double standard between Hillary Clinton’s emails and his own cell phones. Whether or not convenience was actually Clinton's reasoning for the use of her private server is a fair question, but there are still clear parallels between what Trump attacked Clinton for and what he's doing now. (Washington Post)

  • The White House pushed back on the report that Trump's cell phones are not secure: “The White House is confident in the security protocols in place for the President’s use of communications devices,” a senior White House official said. (ABC News)

2/ White House employees who draft tweets for Trump intentionally incorporate poor grammar and spelling errors to mimic their boss. Overuse of exclamation points, random capitalization of words, and use of fragmented sentences are all elements of a process intended to make the tweets appear genuine. (Boston Globe)

3/ The EPA barred the Associated Press and CNN from a national summit on harmful water contaminants convened by Scott Pruitt. One AP reporter was grabbed by the shoulders and forcibly removed from the building after asking to speak to a public affairs representative. "This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity," said EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. Wilcox later announced the afternoon session would be open to all press. (Associated Press / NBC News / Axios / CNBC)

4/ The Interior Department plans to reverse a 2015 ban prohibiting hunters on some public lands in Alaska from using cruel hunting techniques, including the use of spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs during hibernation, the hunting of black bears with dogs, the killing of wolves and pups in their dens, and the use of motor boats to kill swimming caribou. The Interior Department will accept public comments on the proposed rule changes for the next 60 days. (NBC News)

5/ The Government Accountability Office approved a proposal to cut more than $7 billion in unused funding from the Children's Health Insurance Program. The GAO report approved the vast majority of the Trump administration's $15.3 billion plan to reduce government spending. The plan will likely avoid filibuster in the Senate and is expected to pass with a simple majority vote. The House version of the bill has been drafted and is expected to head to the floor in June. (Politico)

6/ Elliot Broidy's company received its largest U.S. government payout while Broidy was selling access to Trump to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In 2017, in addition to securing nearly $1 billion in contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE (in exchange for lobbying against Qatar), Broidy and George Nader locked down more than $4 million in contracts from the Department of Defense. The most Circinus LCC had received in defense contracts prior to Broidy's lobbying work in Washington, D.C. was $7,501. (Daily Beast)

  • More evidence that Broidy may Have been covering for Trump in that Playmate affair. (New York Magazine)

7/ A bipartisan group of lawmakers say they will try to stop Trump from reducing penalties against ZTE, the Chinese telecom giant. "We will begin working on veto-proof congressional action," Marco Rubio tweeted. Dick Durbin said lawmakers are considering several options and plan to act "soon." (Reuters)

  • China has already reduced its import tariff on passenger cars from 25% to 15% following a truce between Trump and Chinese officials. The move opens up a market that has been a major target of the United States in its ongoing trade battle with the world’s second-largest economy. (Bloomberg)

  • How China acquires ‘the crown jewels’ of U.S. technology: The U.S. frequently fails to police foreign deals over the cutting-edge software that powers the military and American economic strength. (Politico)

8/ James Clapper said the FBI did not spy on the Trump campaign at any point. "They were not," Clapper told The View. "They were spying — a term I don't particularly like — on what the Russians were doing." (Politico / The Hill)

  • James Clapper: Trump tweets are a 'disturbing assault' on the Justice Department's independence. (CNN)

9/ Harley-Davidson took a tax cut, closed a factory in Kansas City, and rewarded its shareholders with a $700-million stock buyback plan. Following the windfall of the federal tax bill, the company laid off 800 workers, moved its factory to Pennsylvania, and announced a dividend increase and stock buyback plan for 15 million of its shares. (Vox)

  • An increase in gas prices easily outpaces the benefits of the tax bill for lower-income Americans. It’s not yet clear whether — or how much — this is a function of the Iran deal as opposed to the normal increases typically seen during the summer months. (Washington Post)

  • Gas prices reach $5 per gallon in Manhattan. One gas station in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood listed its gasoline for $4.999 per gallon. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that private-sector workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws. In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch argued the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act. As such, employees who sign agreements to arbitrate claims must waive their rights to join a class action lawsuit and instead go through arbitration on an individual basis. (NPR / Politico)

  2. Purdue Pharma hired Giuliani in the mid-2000s to head off a federal investigation into its marketing of OxyContin, which has been at the center of the national opioid crisis. Purdue turned OxyContin into a multibillion-dollar drug after its launch in 1996 and undertook an unprecedented marketing campaign to pitch the painkiller to doctors. (The Guardian)

  3. Bob Corker turned down an offer to become the next U.S. ambassador to Australia. "I had a number of conversations with both President Trump and [Mike] Pompeo," Corker said. "At the end of the day though … it just felt like it wasn't the right step." (The Tennessean)

  4. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pushed back on the intelligence community's assessment that Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 presidential elections in an attempt to help Trump and hurt Clinton. "I don't believe that I have seen that conclusion … that the specific intent was to help President Trump win," Nielsen said. (CNN)

  5. Senior GOP lawmakers are questioning Paul Ryan's ability to lead the party through the 2018 midterm elections. While Ryan continues to insist he is not planning on stepping down as Speaker, many Republicans — including moderates — have become increasingly willing to defy Ryan, whom they view as a lame-duck leader of the party. (Politico)

Day 487: Walking into a trap.

1/ Trump demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI "infiltrated or surveilled" his presidential campaign under Obama's orders. After accusing the FBI on Friday of sending a "spy" to infiltrate his campaign, Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon: "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes, and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!" The FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 campaign on July 31, 2016. They sent an informant, a retired American professor, to talk to George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, and Sam Clovis after receiving evidence that the pair had contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ The Justice Department asked the inspector general to review the FBI's counterintelligence investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign hours after Trump demanded that the agency investigate whether his campaign was "infiltrated" by the FBI. Rod Rosenstein said in a statement: "If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action." The suspected informant is Stefan Halper, an American who was a foreign policy scholar at the University of Cambridge until 2015. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats met with Trump at the White House. The meeting comes a day after Trump tweeted that he would "demand" the Justice Department investigate whether his campaign was improperly "infiltrated or surveilled" for political purposes. Rosenstein agreed that John Kelly would set up a meeting where congressional leaders can review "highly classified and other information they have requested" related to the Russia probe. (ABC News / CBS News / CNN / Bloomberg)

4/ Rudy Giuliani: Robert Mueller will end his investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Sept. 1 if Trump agrees to sit down with investigators for an interview. A source familiar with the probe called the deadline "entirely made-up" and "another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work." Giuliani added that questions about the FBI informant who approached campaign aides in 2016 need "to be cleared up before we even approach the idea of doing an interview" because Trump could be "walking into a trap." (New York Times / Reuters / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Three months before the 2016 election, Trump Jr. met with representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who offered to help the Trump campaign, proposing a multimillion-dollar social media manipulation campaign. The group comprised Joel Zamel, an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation; George Nader, an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes; and Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Following the meeting, Nader became a close ally of Trump campaign advisers. While it's illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in American elections, two people familiar with the meetings said Trump campaign officials weren't bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners. (New York Times)

6/ Robert Mueller expanded his probe into Joel Zamel's role. Mueller has issued a subpoena for documents related to Zamel's work, but not for Zamel himself. Zamel previously met with Mueller's team to discuss his relationship with George Nader, who paid Zamel $2 million shortly after Trump was elected. The payment has been described as unrelated to the campaign. (Wall Street Journal)


Notables.

  1. Incoming NRA president Oliver North blamed school shootings on "youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence" and young boys who have "been on Ritalin" since early childhood. "They've been drugged in many cases," North said. North, who is best known for his role in the Iran-Contra "guns for drugs" scandal, told Fox News, "You are not going to fix it by taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens." (Washington Post)

  2. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blamed school shootings on violent video games, removing religion from schools, abortion, broken families, too many entrances to schools, unarmed teachers, and irresponsible gun owners. Patrick did not blame guns for school shootings. (CNN)

  3. Trump signed a bill that will undo efforts by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to discourage discrimination in auto lending. CFPB acting Director Mick Mulvaney called the guidelines "misguided" while praising the rollback. (Politico)

  4. A border patrol agent detained two U.S. citizens after overhearing them speaking Spanish at a gas station in Montana last week. (Slate)

  5. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US will aim to "crush" Iran with economic and military pressure if it doesn't change its behavior in the Middle East. Pompeo demanded that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, stop its ballistic-missile program and give nuclear inspectors access to the entire country. (Bloomberg / CNN)

  6. The Trump administration suspended its plan to impose tariffs on China. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said: "We're putting the trade war on hold." (New York Times)

  7. The RNC paid roughly half a million dollars to a law firm representing former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others involved in the Russia probe. Trout Cacheris & Janis received $451,780 from the RNC after Hicks hired the firm's founder as her personal attorney in September. The money used to pay the firm was originally meant to be used for election recounts and other legal matters, but RNC officials concluded that the money could be used to pay for the president's legal fees. (Washington Post)

Day 484: Really bad stuff.

1/ The Trump administration will withhold federal funding for family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to places that perform them in a change to how Title X family planning funds are awarded. The rule will resurrect a Reagan-era policy that requires abortion services to have "separate personnel" and require a "bright line" of "physical separation" from other family planning services. Title X serves about 4 million women a year and costs taxpayers about $260 million. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press)

2/ Trump tweets: The Justice Department put "an embedded informant" inside his campaign in order to "spy" on him in an effort to "frame" him "for crimes he didn't commit." Giuliani tried to clarify Trump's tweets, saying the president doesn't "know for sure" if there was an FBI informant in his campaign. He added that Trump's legal team was told "off the record" that there was not one informant but two informants. Trump tweeted that if the reports are true, then it would be the "all time biggest political scandal!" He called the allegations "really bad stuff!" (NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ Trump Jr. called a blocked number before and after the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. On June 6, Trump Jr. was in contact with a blocked number for three to four minutes. Immediately after ending that call, Trump Jr. called Emin Agalarov, the pop star son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. Two hours after the Trump Tower meeting occurred on June 9th, Trump Jr. placed another call to a blocked number that lasted three minutes. Then-candidate Trump spent that day at Trump Tower, where the private residence has a blocked number, and held no public events. (CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Rudy Giuliani: A president can commit obstruction of justice, contradicting Trump's now-former lawyer John Dowd, who said that "the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer." According to Giuliani, Mueller's appointment was "really about the firing of Comey," which wouldn't count as obstruction – regardless of Trump's reason for doing so – because Comey was "replaced by somebody else on an acting position immediately." (CNBC / Washington Post)

  • Avenatti to Giuliani: "Please retire. Today." You're becoming an "embarrassment." (The Hill)

5/ Giuliani said Robert Mueller agreed to limit the scope of a potential interview with Trump to two topics instead of five. Mueller, according to Giuliani, is not interested in Michael Cohen or his business dealings. "The main focus we want is Russia," Giuliani said, adding: "The President would testify tomorrow if it was about the truth. The truth is he had nothing to do with Russia. The President is not going to lie." (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Mueller subpoenaed another Roger Stone assistant. John Kakanis has worked as a driver, accountant, and operative for Stone was questioned by the FBI on the topics of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the WikiLeaks website, its founder Julian Assange, and the hacker or hackers who call themselves Guccifer 2.0. (Reuters)

6/ Summer School: Trump's lawyers are planning a series of summer prep sessions to get the president ready for a possible sit-down interview with Mueller. The planning meetings will be held during off-hours at the White House and will mirror his 2016 debate preparation, where aides briefed Trump in short sessions over many weeks. (Politico)

7/ Michael Cohen's suspicious activity reports (SARs) aren't missing – the Treasury Department has restricted access to them. Earlier this week, a law enforcement official admitted to leaking some of Cohen's banking records over concerns they had been removed from a Treasury Department database as part of a cover-up. The official could only access one SAR related to Cohen, but knew that two more should have been available. The Treasury Department also restricted some law enforcement agencies from accessing the database despite memorandums of understanding that allow agencies, including the DEA, the FBI, and the IRS, to access the information. (BuzzFeed News)

  • 🤔 Let's work together to answer your vexing questions about the curious case of Cohen's SARs, where Avenatti got his information, and whether Mueller may already have Coehn's reports. (WTF Community Center)

8/ At least 10 people were killed and 10 more wounded in a shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. Trump offered his "support to everyone affected" and said mass shootings have been "going on too long in our country." Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, called for legislative action, saying that by failing to act, "we are failing our children." And, in an open letter to Trump and federal lawmakers, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote: "You were elected to lead – do something." (New York Times / CNN / The Hill / ABC News)

  • An armed man ranting "anti-Trump" rhetoric opened fire on police officers at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Club in South Florida before he was wounded and apprehended. (New York Times / Sun Sentinel)

Notables.

  1. Trump personally asked the postmaster general to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com. Megan Brennan has resisted, explaining multiple times that the rates are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission. Brennan also told Trump that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service. (Washington Post)

  2. Senate Democrats called for a multi-agency inspector general investigation into the Trump administration's failure to implement mandated sanctions against Russia. In a letter addressed to the inspectors general of the State Department, Treasury Department and Intelligence Community, Democratic lawmakers said the administration has not complied with the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. (Daily Beast)

  3. Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Emerdata, a company that was registered in August with Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer on the board, is footing the legal bills for the two companies. (BuzzFeed News / CNN)

  4. Trump tapped Robert Wilkie as next Veterans Affairs secretary after conduct issues sank Ronny Jackson's nomination. Wilkie has been leading the VA in an acting capacity since March. (Politico)

  5. The White House is considering shrinking its communications team in part to reduce the number of leaks. While most staffers are not expected to be fired outright, there's a sense that a few staffers will pay a price for the leaked comment about John McCain's brain cancer – even if there's no evidence they were involved in the leak. (Politico / CNN)

  6. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tried to demonstrate how benign the effects of a 25% levy on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminum would be by holding up a can of Campbell's Soup. Today, Campbell said it expects profits to decline by 5% to 6% this year – worse than earlier projections of between 1% and 3%. (CNBC)

  7. The House failed to pass the Republican-written farm bill. The measure died in a 198 to 213 vote that saw 30 House Republicans join 183 Democrats in voting against the legislation. The House Freedom Caucus wanted assurances that the House would vote on a tough immigration plan in exchange for their votes, which they didn't receive. (CNBC / Washington Post)

Day 483: Disgusting, illegal and unwarranted.

1/ Trump marked Robert Mueller's one-year anniversary as special counsel by offering "congratulations" to America on "the greatest Witch Hunt in American History." Trump charged that the FBI had "SPIED" on his campaign with an "EMBEDDED INFORMANT," which makes the Russia investigation "bigger than Watergate!" Trump claimed he's had the "most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history," overcome a "disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt," and noted there is "still No Collusion and No Obstruction." He added that "the only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!" (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News)

  • The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation. Days after the F.B.I. closed its investigation into Hillary Clinton in 2016, agents began scrutinizing the presidential campaign of her Republican rival, Donald J. Trump. (New York Times)

  • Inside year one of the Mueller investigation. As the Mueller probe hits its one-year anniversary, the special counsel's team has brought charges against 22 people and companies, notched five guilty pleas and seen one person sentenced. While a number of those charges were related to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, so far none of them has extended to potential collusion between the Russian government and Trump associates. (CNN)

  • Is Trump's rhetoric about an informant in his campaign warranted? On the first anniversary of the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to take over the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and any overlap with Donald Trump’s campaign, now-President Trump used his preferred political superlatives to disparage that inquiry on Twitter. (Washington Post)

  • Last Year Today: Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Bob Mueller to oversee the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. (WTF Just Happened Today)

2/ Mueller's office filed under seal an unredacted memorandum that outlines the scope of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The filing was made as part of Mueller's criminal case against Paul Manafort, and was requested by the judge overseeing the case. (Reuters)

  • Manafort's former son-in-law cut a plea deal with the Justice Department, requiring him cooperate with other criminal probes. Jeffrey Yohai, a former business partner of Manafort, divorced Manafort's daughter last August. (Reuters)

  • 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)

3/ Trump referred to some undocumented immigrants as "animals," saying "these aren't people. These are animals." Trump also suggested that the mayor of Oakland, California, should be charged with obstruction of justice for warning her constituents about ICE raids in February. "You talk about obstruction of justice," said Trump. "I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Kellyanne Conway: Trump is owed an apology from those who criticized him for calling undocumented immigrants "animals," because he was referring to gang members. (The Hill)

4/ Michael Avenatti: Two more women claim they have agreements with either Trump or Michael Cohen to stay quiet about an affair with the president. Avenatti said he is in talks with the two women, but has not confirmed the allegations and is working to substantiate their claims. (The Hill)

  • A New York appeals court rejected Trump's request to stay proceedings in a defamation suit filed by a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who claimed he sexually harassed her. (Washington Post)

5/ The unnamed law enforcement official who leaked confidential financial records about Michael Cohen and his shell company last week did so because the official was worried that information was being withheld from law enforcement. Two suspicious activity reports filed by Cohen's bank were missing from the database managed by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. "I have never seen something pulled off the system," the official said. "That system is a safeguard for the bank. It's a stockpile of information. When something's not there that should be, I immediately became concerned." The official continued: "That's why I came forward." (New Yorker)

6/ Michael Cohen solicited a payment of at least $1 million from the Qatari government in late 2016. Cohen offered to provide access and advice about the then-incoming Trump administration in exchange. Qatar declined the offer, which came following a Dec. 12, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower between Qatar's foreign minister and Michael Flynn. Cohen didn't attend the meeting, but did speak separately to Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who was head of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund at the time. (Washington Post / Reuters)

  • Jared Kushner's family company is close to a deal with the Qatar government to bailout the family's financially troubled tower in New York City. The building generates about half its annual mortgage payment, and 30% of the 41-story tower is vacant. (New York Times)

7/ The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the data company offered services intended to discourage voting and suppress voter turnout. Christopher Wylie didn't provide specifics about the services offered by Cambridge Analytica, but he did allege that African-American communities were particular targets of the company's "voter disengagement tactics." He also said that political action committees requested such voter suppression services from Cambridge Analytica. (CNN)

  • Paul Ryan postponed a congressional briefing on election security. Democrats pressed GOP leadership to make the briefing classified so that officials could go into sufficient detail about the scope of the threat and the Trump administration's efforts to protect digital election systems from hackers. (The Hill)

poll/ 13% of Americans consider Trump honest and trustworthy – down 3 points since February 2017. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel as the next CIA director, approving her nomination in a 54 to 45 vote despite bipartisan concerns about her role in the agency's detention and interrogation programs. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  2. North Korea called the South Korean government "ignorant and incompetent" and threatened to break off peace talks with the South if they don't halt U.S.-South Korean air combat drills. (Reuters)

  3. Scott Pruitt hired a white-collar defense lawyer to help him navigate a dozen federal investigations into his activity and behavior as EPA administrator. (Politico)

  4. Trump blamed Democrats for immigration laws that force federal immigration agents to break up families, saying "we have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It's a horrible thing, we have to break up families. That Democrats gave us that law and they don't want to do anything about it." (CNN)

  5. The White House canceled its daily communications morning meeting in response to the leak of a joke about John McCain being close to death. (New York Times)

  6. A Republican lawmaker suggested that rocks falling in the ocean are causing sea levels to rise. Representative Mo Brooks from Alabama: "Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up." (Science)


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Day 482: Russian assistance.

1/ Trump "fully reimbursed" Michael Cohen between $100,001 and $250,000 in 2017 for an unspecified payment to a third party in 2016, according to Trump's financial disclosure report. The disclosure corroborates Rudy Giuliani's claim that Trump personally reimbursed Cohen between $460,000 or $470,000 for "incidental expenses" that he had incurred on Trump's behalf. Trump reported assets of at least $1.4 billion and income of at least $593.3 million for the 2016 calendar year and the early months of 2017. Trump owes at least $310 million to various financial institutions, including $130 million to Deutsche Bank. (CNBC / New York Times)

  • Trump's 2017 financial disclosure report. (CNN)

2/ The Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in order to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. The Senate committee's bipartisan conclusion contradicts Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who dispute the intelligence community's findings that Putin was trying to help Trump. "We see no reason to dispute the conclusions," the Senate committee's chairman, Richard Burr, said. "There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections." (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Senate Judiciary Democrats say the evidence is clear that the Trump campaign "was willing to accept Russia's assistance." The committee's preliminary findings on the Trump Tower meeting also suggest they found "evidence of multiple contacts" between the Trump campaign and Russia, including "offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin." The committee also found that Trump Jr. and the White House misled the public about the June 9, 2016, meeting with Russians at Trump Tower, and that Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner were frustrated "that more damaging information was not produced" at the meeting. (Feinstein / Senate.gov)

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee released more than 2,500 pages of testimony related to their investigation into the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, a self-described Kremlin informant. Trump Jr. was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but testimony largely confirms that Veselnitskaya did not provide dirt that could be used in the campaign. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 7 things we learned from the Trump Tower meeting testimony. (Washington Post)

  • Materials from Inquiry into Circumstances Surrounding Trump Tower Meeting. (Senate Judiciary Committee)

4/ Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee he never mentioned the Trump Tower meeting to his father or the offer of compromising information about Hillary Clinton. He also said he couldn't "recall" if he discussed the Russia investigation with his father. Trump Jr. told the committee he didn't think there was anything wrong with meeting a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 presidential election, saying "I didn't think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue, no." (Associated Press)

5/ Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson warned of a "growing crisis in ethics and integrity" among U.S. leaders during a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute. Tillerson did not mention Trump by name, but insisted that "a common set of facts" are essential to maintaining a free society. (Politico)

6/ Robert Mueller issued two subpoenas to Roger Stone's social media consultant. Mueller has been probing whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign may have helped WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or the Russians with the release of the hacked DNC emails. In particular, Mueller wants to know if Stone had advance knowledge of the hacked emails. Mueller has also been requesting interviews with former employees and friends of Stone in recent weeks, asking them about Stone's ties to Russia and Assange. (Reuters / Bloomberg)

7/ Mueller's team told Trump's attorneys they can't indict a president, according to Rudy Giuliani. "All they get to do is write a report," Giuliani said. "They can't indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us." Mueller's conclusion is likely based on Justice Department guidelines and is not an assessment of the evidence the special counsel has compiled. (CNN)

8/ The White House brushed aside North Korea's threat to cancel the summit meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, saying that "this is something that we fully expected," and Trump remains "hopeful" that the June 12 meeting will happen. "We'll see what happens," Trump told reporters, adding that he will insist on North Korean "denuclearization" as a condition of talks. North Korea said Kim could withdraw from the meeting over Trump's demand that it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal. (New York Times / USA Today)

poll/ 50% of voters have either "a lot" or "some" confidence in Trump's ability to handle North Korea. 32% of voters think Trump should meet with Kim Jong Un only if North Korea makes concessions on its nuclear weapons program beforehand, while 47% say Trump should meet with Kim regardless. (Politico)


✏️ Notables.

  • The top lawyer for the Swiss drugmaker Novartis resigned in connection with the $1.2 million deal he co-signed with Michael Cohen, calling the deal a mistake. "Although the contract was legally in order," Felix Ehrat said, "it was an error." He continued: "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end." (Reuters)

  • The FBI and Justice Department are investigating Cambridge Analytica and are looking to question former employees and banks that did business with the data firm. Few details about the investigation are available as investigators work to get an overview of the company and its business dealings. (New York Times)

  • Trump demanded that Congress make progress on the southern border wall and crack down on sanctuary cities during an event outside the Capitol honoring police officers. He also called for an end to so-called "catch and release" immigration laws. Trump reiterated his calls for the border wall during a private lunch with Senate Republicans. (The Hill)

  • Democrats flipped another seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, bringing the total number of state legislative flips to 41 since Trump's inauguration. (Daily Beast)

  • The Senate has voted to save net neutrality by rolling back the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The House, however, does not intend to take similar action. (NPR / The Verge)

  • Scott Pruitt said that one of his top aides helped him search for housing last year, but said she had done so "on personal time" and he did not pay her for the help. Democratic senators say the help constitutes a gift, which would be a violation of federal law. (Washington Post)


👀 Watching.

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Day 481: Hindsight.

1/ Gina Haspel said that "with the benefit of hindsight" torture was a bad idea and "not one the CIA should have undertaken," in a letter to Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee will vote on her nomination on Wednesday. She appeared to have secured enough votes to be confirmed as the next CIA director after Warner signaled his support for Haspel. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

2/ The Trump administration eliminated the White House's top cybersecurity policy role. In an email to National Security Council staff, John Bolton, Trump's new national security adviser, said the decision is part of an effort to "streamline authority" for the senior directors who lead most NSC teams. (Politico)

3/ A federal judge rejected Paul Manafort's request to dismiss criminal charges brought by Robert Mueller. Manafort claimed that Mueller's charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for a Ukrainian political party had exceeded his prosecutorial powers. Manafort has also filed a motion to dismiss another criminal case involving tax and bank-fraud charges. (Reuters / Politico)

4/ Michael Cohen claimed in a January 2017 interview that the Trump Organization had no recent relationship or business dealings with Russia. Cohen, however, sent emails during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign seeking the assistance of the Kremlin in an effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump launched his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015. The Moscow project was dropped in January 2016. (CNN)

5/ Obama's ethics chief accused Trump of violating the emoluments clause for a Trump-branded golf course and hotel in Indonesia partially funded by the Chinese government. Norm Eisen tweeted: "See you in court Mr. Trump." Adam Schiff also said he believes Trump is in "violation of the emoluments clause" after he said he wants to help Chinese telecommunications company ZTE get "back into business." Earlier this year the U.S. Commerce Department prohibited U.S. companies from selling to ZTE because the firm violated American sanctions on Iran. (The Hill / New York Times / South China Morning Post)

6/ A Qatari investor confirmed that he attended meetings at Trump Tower in December 2016 with Trump transition officials. Ahmed Al-Rumaihi's statement comes after Michael Avenatti tweeted: "Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?" Al-Rumaihi said he attended multiple meetings on December 12th, including one with Michael Cohen, but "did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn." (CNN)

7/ North Korea threatened to cancel the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, citing joint U.S.-South Korean military drills as a "provocation" and a preparation for an invasion. North Korea also cancelled scheduled talks with South Korea today. (Axios / CNBC / New York Times / Yonhap)

8/ The Trump administration is preparing to shelter migrant children on military bases as part of its effort to split up families who cross the border illegally. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to visit four military installations in Texas and Arkansas in the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability for child shelters. (Washington Post)

poll/ 52% of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance, which Trump called his "best poll numbers in a year." 44% approve of his job performance, which is his highest point in 14 months. Trump added: "The People truly get it!" (The Hill / Fox News)


Notables.

  1. Michael Avenatti threatened to sue the Daily Caller for libel after the site published an article that claimed "Avenatti's past is littered with lawsuits, jilted business partners and bankruptcy filings." Avenatti fired back: "Just like there is nothing wrong with calling out unethical attorneys, there is nothing wrong with calling out unethical journalists." (Washington Post)

  2. The White House blamed Hamas propaganda for the death of more than 50 Palestinians near the Gaza border. "Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response" of Palestinians protesting the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem, White House spokesperson Raj Shah said, adding that the clashes were "a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt" by the Hamas leadership. (HuffPost)

  3. The U.S. blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an investigation into the 58 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops during protests along the Gaza border. (Axios / The Hill)

  4. A Ukrainian politician involved in the controversial plan to resolve Ukraine's conflict with Russian-backed rebels has been called to testify before a grand jury as part of the special counsel's investigation. Andrii Artemenko did not give any details about his upcoming grand jury appearance, but he said he assumes he will be asked about his communications with Michael Cohen from early 2017. Artemenko said he plans to cooperate with the subpoena and appear in person. (Politico)

  5. California and 18 other states filed papers to block the Trump administration from changing the requirements for Title X, which provides family planning services for more than four million uninsured and under-insured people. The Trump administration action threatens funding for birth control, sexually transmitted disease testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and infertility treatment. (Los Angeles Times)

  6. Seven Republican governors signed onto a letter in support of Trump's nomination to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his "unprecedented victory for global peace and security" in negotiations with North Korea. (The Hill)


Watching.

A list of stories I'm keeping an eye on.

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Day 480: A fucked-up feedback loop.

1/ Trump and Sean Hannity often speak by phone several times a day, and the two speak most weeknights after Hannity's show on Fox News is over. Current and former White House officials say the conversations help Trump "decompress" at the end of the day since "he doesn't live with his wife." One former White House official called the talks with Hannity "a fucked-up feedback loop" that puts Trump "in a weird headspace." Hannity is one of a few dozen callers who have been cleared to use Trump's official White House phone line. (New York Magazine)

2/ The White House declined to apologize for Kelly Sadler's "joke" that John McCain's opinion "doesn't matter, because he's dying anyway." Instead, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was "selfish" for her staff to use the "inappropriate" comment as justification for leaking it to the press. "I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that's just disgusting." (ABC News / New York Times / Axios)

3/ A Trump administration official proposed collecting and analyzing the communications of White House staff in order to identify leakers last year. Ezra Cohen-Watnick wanted to implement the "insider threat" detection program in order to find leakers or those disloyal to Trump. Cohen-Watnick worked as the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council at the time. One current White House official said, "To cover my tracks [when leaking], I usually pay attention to other staffers' idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me." (Daily Beast / Axios)

4/ A former senior Trump campaign and transition aide is helping a Russian oligarch's company shed US sanctions. Bryan Lanza is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, an energy and aluminum firm controlled by Oleg Deripaska, who was the target of US sanctions imposed last month. The company wants to reduce Deripaska's ownership in the company enough to be freed from US sanctions. (CNN)

5/ A Russian company indicted by Robert Mueller accused the special counsel of inventing a "make-believe crime" in order "to justify his own existence." Concord Management is challenging the legal basis of Mueller's charge that the company funded Moscow's effort to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Concord is one of three Russian businesses and 13 Russian individuals indicted in February for funding for a Russian troll farm that directed a social media campaign aimed at sowing discord among Americans and at favoring Trump over Hillary Clinton. Concord is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman who is known as Putin's chef. (New York Times / Politico)

6/ Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is going to work for Mike Pence's political action committee. Trump asked Lewandowski to join Pence's Great America Committee PAC, which is aimed at helping the Trump re-election effort as well as enhancing Pence's profile with both Republicans and Trump's base. Some Republicans, however, see Pence's moves as an attempt to take control over the party and separate Trump from his base. (NBC News / New York Times)

7/ Betsy DeVos scaled back the Education Department team responsible for investigating for-profit colleges accused of widespread fraud. The rollback "effectively killed investigations" into for-profit colleges where DeVos' top hires previously worked. (New York Times)


✏️ Notables.

  1. At least 43 Palestinians were killed in Gaza as protests broke out over the US relocating its Embassy to Jerusalem – making it the deadliest day there since the 2014 Gaza war. (CNN / New York Times)

  2. Trump is required to disclose all liabilities that exceeded $10,000 at any time during calendar year 2017, even if he repaid them later that year, under the Ethics in Government Act. This includes his debt to Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels and any others he may have left out on the financial disclosure report he filed on June 14, 2017. (USA Today)

  3. Scott Pruitt and the White House blocked the publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, because it would cause a "public relations nightmare." The draft study remains unpublished three months later, and the Department of Health and Human Services says it has no scheduled date to release for public comment the study on a class of toxic chemicals that have contaminated water supplies. (Politico)

  4. Melania Trump underwent kidney surgery for a "benign kidney condition" and is reportedly recovering without trouble at a military hospital outside the capital. (New York Times)

  5. In December 2016, members of the Trump transition team met with a Qatari diplomat who was recently accused in a lawsuit of attempting to bribe Trump officials. Michael Avenatti shared photos of Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn meeting with a person who appears to be Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, the man in charge of a division of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund. The meeting was previously unreported. Rapper and actor Ice Cube, along with his business partner Jeff Kwatinetz, recently filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit alleging that Al-Rumaihi and other Qatari officials tried to buy access to people connected to Trump. (Mother Jones)

  6. Top Republican donors have withheld their support for Senate and House Republicans over frustration with the new tax law. While the corporate tax rate was slashed from 35% to 21%, hedge funds are largely taxed at the top individual rate, which dropped from 39.6% to 37%. (CNN)

  7. National security adviser John Bolton doubled down on Trump's threat that European countries could be sanctioned by the US if they continue to be involved with Iran. (Politico)

  8. Trump instructed the Commerce Department to help ZTE – the world's fourth-largest maker of cellphones – get "back into business" after the Chinese company was penalized for violating U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran. Trump said he was working with President Xi to end a ban on export privileges, because "too many jobs in China lost." (NPR)


👀 Watching.

A list of stories I'm keeping an eye on.

💬 What stories are you noticing? Let me know using the chat icon in the lower right-hand corner.

Day 477: Big mistake.

1/ In 2014, the FBI warned that Viktor Vekselberg might be acting on behalf of Russia's intelligence services, saying a foundation he controlled "may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation's sensitive or classified research, development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial applications." Earlier this week Michael Avenatti released a dossier that claims Columbus Nova, a Vekselberg company, made more than eight payments to Essential Consultants, totaling more than $1 million in payments between 2016 and 2017. Essential Consultants is owned by Michael Cohen, who is Trump's personal lawyer. Avenatti suggested that the Columbus Nova funds could have been used to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about her alleged affair with Trump. (NPR)

2/ AT&T paid Michael Cohen $600,000 to provide advice about the company's proposed merger with Time Warner, which required the approval from antitrust regulators. Trump had voiced opposition to the $85 billion merger on the campaign trail, and his administration ultimately opposed the deal. In a memo to employees, AT&T's CEO said they made a "big mistake" hiring Cohen for advice on working with the Trump administration. (Washington Post / Reuters)

3/ A non-partisan Washington ethics group wants Congress and the Justice Department to investigate whether Michael Cohen should have registered as a lobbyist and disclosed his work with foreign clients. (ABC News)

4/ Robert Mueller's team is investigating several Trump inauguration donors, including Andrew Intrater and Leonard Blavatnik, a dual U.S. and British citizen with business ties to Russia. Intrater is the CEO of Columbus Nova, a U.S.-based affiliate of the the Renova Group, which is controlled by Viktor Vekselberg. In particular, Intrater made a $250,000 donation to the Trump inauguration committee in early January 2017, and later made two more donations: a $35,000 to the Trump Victory fundraising committee and $29,600 to the Republican National Committee. Blavatnik gave $1 million to Trump's inaugural fund through his company, Access Industries. Mueller's team also questioned Thomas Barrack, a longtime Trump friend and confidant who oversaw the $107 million inaugural fundraising effort. (ABC News)

5/ Congress is considering a "Plan B" to protect Mueller's work if Trump fires the special counsel or Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the probe. The discussions "involve assuring the evidence is preserved and reports are done if the special counsel is fired or other political interference is undertaken by the president," Senator Richard Blumenthal said. Mitch McConnell refused to bring a Senate Judiciary Committee bill up for a floor vote last month, and House Republicans have refused to consider any legislation to protect the Mueller probe. (NBC News)

6/ Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen drafted a resignation letter and nearly quit after Trump berated her for more than 30 minutes in front of his entire Cabinet. Trump singled Nielsen out for what he called her failure to secure the nation's borders after illegal crossings along the Mexico border topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Trump's tirade as his commitment "to fixing our broken immigration system and our porous borders." (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

7/ A White House official mocked John McCain's brain cancer diagnosis, saying his opposition to Trump's nominee for CIA director "doesn't matter, he's dying anyway." The White House didn't deny special assistant Kelly Sadler's comment about McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel. Meghan McCain called on the Trump administration to fire Sadler, saying "I don't understand what kind of environment you're working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job." (The Hill / CNN)

poll/ 44.7% of independent voters in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin believe Robert Mueller is more honest and trustworthy than Trump – up 4 points since February. Overall, 37.8% of voters in the four swing states say Trump is more honest and trustworthy, while 37.3% say Mueller is. (Axios / Firehouse Strategies)


Notables.

  1. John Kelly claims he's never seriously considered leaving his job as Trump's chief of staff. Kelly suggested that he is in lock-step with Trump and has a close relationship. "In retrospect, I wish I had been here from day one," Kelly said. "I think in some cases in terms of staffing or serving the president that first six months was pretty chaotic and there were people some people hired that maybe shouldn't have." (NPR)

  2. Kelly said undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. "don't integrate well [because] they don't have skills" to assimilate into "our modern society." Kelly previously criticized undocumented immigrants as being "too afraid" or "too lazy" to sign up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (CNN)

  3. Trump's new national security adviser disbanded the global health security team a day after the World Health Organization declared a new Ebola outbreak in the Congo. John Bolton's restructuring of the team, intended to "streamline" the National Security Council and "combine a handful of offices with similar mission sets," caused Tim Ziemer, head of global health security and biodefense, to resign. Ziemer was responsible for leading the U.S. response to global pandemic diseases. Nobody is taking over his role. (Washington Post / The Atlantic / HuffPost)


Watching.

A list of stories I'm keeping an eye on.

💬 What stories are you noticing? Let me know using the chat icon in the lower right-hand corner.

Day 476: Wrap it up.

1/ Mike Pence: It's time for Robert Mueller to "wrap it up" because it's "been about a year since this investigation began." He added that the Trump administration has "fully cooperated" with the probe, which Trump has frequently referred to as a "witch hunt." (Washington Post / Associated Press / CNN)

2/ Rudy Giuliani: Trump "wasn't aware" that Michael Cohen pitched his access to the President to potential clients following the 2016 election in order to land consulting deals. "I talked to the President only one time about this and that was the first day it came out and he wasn't aware of that situation," Giuliani said. AT&T and Novartis were among the companies that hired Cohen's consulting firm, Essential Consultants, for "insights" about how the Trump administration would approach certain policy matters. (CNN)

3/ The Russia-linked company that hired Michael Cohen registered a number of alt-right websites during the 2016 elections. Columbus Nova is listed as the registrant behind a handful of website domains named after the alt-right movement, including Alt-right.co, Alternate-right.com, Alternate-rt.com, Alt-rite.com, and others. The brother of Andrew Intrater, Columbus Nova's U.S. CEO, is named in the registration databases for the websites. Columbus Nova said Frederick Intrater was not acting on behalf of the company, even though he had used his work email address and listed the organization. Columbus Nova gave $500,000 to Cohen in the first half of 2017. (Washington Post)

4/ Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released 3,500 Facebook ads purchased by a Russian troll farm from mid-2015 to mid-2017. The ads, from the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency, reached at least 146 million people on Facebook and Instagram, spreading inflammatory and divisive messages on immigration, race, gun control, Islam, LGBT-centric topics, and more, in an attempt to polarize Americans. Facebook's targeting tools allowed the Russian agents to deliver their disinformation to groups of users according to their location, age, gender, and interests. (NBC News / USA Today / Washington Post)

"They sought to harness Americans' very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior," Rep. Adam B. Schiff said in a statement. "The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us."

  • How to see if you "liked" a Facebook page that was operated by Russian trolls: Go to this Facebook page. Facebook will list the page and the date that you either liked or followed it.

5/ National security adviser John Bolton wants to eliminate the top White House cybersecurity job. Bolton and his team are leading an effort to abolish the role of special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator. The coordinator leads a team of National Security Council staffers who deal with federal cyber strategy on everything from encryption policies to election security to digital warfare. (Politico)

6/ John McCain gave the Steele dossier to then-FBI director James Comey. "I agreed to receive a copy of what is now referred to as 'the dossier,'" McCain writes in his new book. "I reviewed its contents. The allegations were disturbing, but I had no idea which if any were true. I could not independently verify any of it, and so I did what any American who cares about our nation's security should have done." McCain concludes: "I did what duty demanded I do." (Daily Beast)

7/ Trump's pick to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, claimed during her Senate confirmation hearing that the CIA "never did" interrogations "historically." The claim is demonstrably false, but CIA spokesman Dean Boyd came to Haspel's defense, saying Haspel meant that the CIA "did not have … a detention and interrogation program" before 9/11. Senators were visibly frustrated with Haspel's refusal to answer questions about whether she believes torture is immoral. McCain called on the Senate to reject Haspel's nomination, citing her refusal to acknowledge "torture's immorality." (Newsweek / CNN)

  • Dick Cheney called on the CIA to restart its controversial "enhanced" interrogation program used during the George W. Bush administration. The Senate outlawed the use of torture and other brutal interrogation techniques like waterboarding and "rectal feeding" in 2015. (The Hill)

  • A Fox News military commentator argued that torture is good because "it worked on John [McCain]. That's why they call him 'Songbird John.'" There is no evidence McCain gave up accurate information while being tortured in North Vietnam. (Daily Beast)

8/ Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. The summit will be the first face-to-face meeting between a sitting American president and the North Korean leader. (New York Times / CNN)

The president praised Mr. Kim and said he was "nice in letting [the U.S. hostages] go before the meeting." Last year Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim threatened nuclear war against each other’s countries.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said he could not understand the praise Mr. Kim was receiving from Mr. Trump and others for releasing the three prisoners. (New York Times)

  • Trump welcomed three Americans who had been held prisoner in North Korea back home and thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for their release. Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul and Kim Sang-duk were granted amnesty by Kim after being accused of crimes against the regime. (Reuters / NBC News)

poll/ 77% of Americans approve of Trump's decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Overall, 53% approve of Trump's handling of North Korea, and 35% disapprove. (CNN)

poll/ 61% of Republicans believe the FBI and Justice Department are trying to frame Trump. 7% of Democrats believe Trump is facing a biased FBI. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Five senior Islamic State officials were captured in a three-month, cross-border operation carried out by Iraqi and American intelligence. (New York Times)

  2. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe can no longer count on the U.S. for military protection and must "take its destiny into its own hands" following the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord. (Bloomberg)

  3. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley encouraged Supreme Court justices to immediately step down if they're considering retirement so Republicans can push through a nominee before the midterm elections. "If you're thinking about quitting this year," Grassley said, "do it yesterday." (Politico)

  4. Rudy Giuliani resigned from his law firm in order to concentrate on his legal work for Trump. In a statement, Giuliani said "a permanent resignation" would be in the best interest of the country due to "the pressing demands of the Mueller investigation." (CNN)

  5. Giuliani's law firm disputes that Michael Cohen's $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels was just business as usual. A spokeswoman for Greenberg Traurig said: "Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client." (New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 475: Unprecedented and coordinated.

1/ A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that Russia conducted an "unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign" in order to undermine confidence in U.S. voting systems starting as early as 2014 and continuing through Election Day 2016. Senators report that the Russians targeted at least 18 states looking for vulnerabilities, and in six states they tried to gain access to voting websites. In "a small number of states" they actually breached election computer defenses. The committee said it found no evidence that vote tallies or voter registration information were changed, but that Russian hackers were "in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data." (New York Times / The Hill)

  • [PDF] Russian Targeting of Election Infrastructure During the 2016 Election: Summary of Initial Findings and Recommendations. (Senator Burr)

2/ Top White House officials withheld information sought by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, siding with senior FBI and national intelligence officials that the information could endanger a top-secret intelligence source. The Justice Department, however, invited Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy for a classified briefing about their document request related to the Russia investigation after Nunes publicly suggested that he may try to hold Jeff Sessions in contempt for refusing to comply. Some administration officials worry that Trump will change his mind and support Nunes' argument that "Congress has a right and a duty to get this information." (Washington Post / CNN)

3/ One of the women who accused Trump of sexual assault won her uncontested primary bid for a seat in the Ohio state House of Representatives. Rachel Crooks accused Trump of kissing her without her consent in 2005 and went public with her claims in 2016. She is now the Democratic nominee for a seat in the Ohio state legislature. (CNN) / Washington Post)

  • Don Blankenship lost in the West Virginia Republican U.S. Senate primary on Tuesday following the coordinated effort by Mitch McConnell and Republican leaders to sink his bid. Blankenship called himself "Trumpier Than Trump." (New York Times)

4/ Trump mused about taking away press credentials from media outlets over "negative" coverage of him. "Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt?" Trump tweeted. "Take away credentials?" Trump was apparently responding to a segment on Fox and Friends, which cited a study from the Media Research Center – a right-wing media watchdog. The study says 91% of network news stories about him are negative. (The Independent / The Hill / Politico / Washington Post)

5/ Robert Mueller's team interviewed Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who attended a meeting with the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund in the Seychelles Islands on Jan. 11, 2017. The meeting is understood to have been an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin. (Daily Beast)

poll/ 47% of registered voters say they would support the Democratic candidate in their district on a generic congressional ballot, compared to 44% who would back the Republican. 31% say the country would be better off with Democrats in control of Congress while 30% say the country would be better of with the GOP in charge. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Senate Democrats filed a petition to force a net neutrality vote by June 12th. All 49 Senate Democrats and one Republican have pledged to support the pro-net neutrality bill. The prolonged absence of John McCain gives proponents a 50-49 vote edge in the Senate. However, the measure is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House or survive a veto by Trump. (Ars Technica / Reuters / The Verge)

  2. Trump's nominee to the lead the CIA defended the agency's use of torture of terrorism suspects, but said she "would not restart, under any circumstances, an interrogation program at CIA." During her confirmation hearing, Gina Haspel refused to definitively tell the Senate Intelligence Committee whether she believed it was wrong to waterboard terror suspects. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  3. North Korea handed over three American prisoners to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and they are now on the way home from Pyongyang. Trump plans to greet the three men when they arrive at Andrews Air Force Base. North Korean state media said the men were detained for either subversion or committing "hostile acts" against the government. (CNBC / Reuters)

  4. The White House requested $7 billion in funding cuts to the Children's Health Insurance Program as part of a $15 billion rescissions package sent to Congress. (CNN)

  5. A group of Republicans are trying to force a vote to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in defiance of Paul Ryan. House GOP moderates filed a discharge petition that would trigger a series of votes on four immigration bills if 218 members sign on. They need every Democrat to support the petition and 20 Republicans to break ranks to trigger the votes. (Politico / CNN)

  6. Trump: "Everyone thinks" I deserve the Nobel Prize for improving relations with North Korea. Trump was asked by a reporter whether he deserved the honor, to which he replied: "Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it." (CNN)


Dept. of that Michael Cohen x Russia x Stormy Daniels thing.

Let's try to untangle the latest news surrounding Michael Cohen, Russian oligarchs, and Stormy Daniels…

  1. Michael Avenatti released an "executive summary" yesterday of material he says connects Trump's payment to Stormy Daniels to a Russian oligarch. Avenatti represents Daniels in her lawsuit against Trump and Michael Cohen. (NPR)

  2. The Avenatti dossier claims that a company connected to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg made eight payments to Essential Consultants, one of Cohen's shell companies, between January 2017 and August 2017. Avenatti suggested that the funds from Columbus Nova may have been used to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about her alleged affair with Trump. (Daily Beast)

  3. Essential Consultants received more than $1 million from Vekselberg's Columbus Nova. Cohen's company, Essential Consultants, was incorporated on October 17, 2016 – 10 days after the Access Hollywood tape went public and a weeks before the election – and is the same shell company used to pay Stormy Daniels on October 27th. More than $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants beginning just before the 2016 election and continued until January 2018. (New York Times)

  4. Robert Mueller's investigators questioned Vekselberg about a $500,000 payment from Columbus Nova to Essential Consultants that was made shortly after the 2016 election. Vekselberg was placed on a list of sanctioned Russians for election interference and other activities last month by the Trump administration. The purpose of the payments and the nature of the business relationship between Vekselberg and Cohen is still unclear. (CNN)

  5. AT&T paid Essential Consultants $200,000 in four separate installments for "insights" on the Trump administration between October 2017 and January 2018. Net neutrality was repealed in December 2017. Two of those payments came before the Justice Department filed a November 20th antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T's $85 billion deal for Time Warner. Two payments came after that. (CNBC / Politico / The Atlantic)

  6. Drug giant Novartis paid Essential Consultants $1.2 million for health care policy consulting work that Cohen was "unable" to do. Novartis signed a one-year contract with Cohen's shell company for $100,000 per month in February 2017 – days after Trump's inauguration – for advice on "how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. health-care policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act." But a month after signing the deal, Novartis executives "determined that Michael Cohen and Essentials Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated" following their first meeting with Cohen. "Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him," a Novartis employee said. "It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist." (CNBC / Bloomberg / STAT News)

  7. Mueller's investigators questioned Novartis last year about its relationship with Cohen and Essential Consultants. "Novartis cooperated fully with the Special Counsel's office and provided all the information requested," a Novartis spokeswoman said in a statement. (Politico)

  8. Korean Aerospace Industries confirmed that it paid $150,000 to Essential Consultants. The company is in contention for a multibillion joint U.S. contract with Lockheed Martin for jet trainers. (Washington Post)

  9. The Treasury Department's inspector general is investigating whether Essential Consultants banking information was leaked. Banks are required to file a Suspicious Activity Report on any unusual transactions over $10,000, which experts say could be the source of the information that Avenatti released yesterday. Rich Delmar, counsel to the inspector general, said that the office is "inquiring into allegations" that Suspicious Activity Reports on Cohen's banking transactions were "improperly disseminated." (Washington Post)

Day 474: Opposition media.

1/ Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, reinstating all sanctions it had waived and imposing additional economic penalties. Trump's aides persuaded him twice last year not to withdraw. Trump called the accord "a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," adding that the 2015 pact was "a great embarrassment." Following Trump’s announcement, Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement expressing "regret and concern" while pledging their "continuing commitment" to the terms of the agreement. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Trump is frustrated with Rudy Giuliani's inability to handle the Stormy Daniels situation and is concerned that Giuliani's media appearances are raising more questions than they are answering. Some aides say they expect Trump to fire Giuliani if he is unable to turn things around. Trump recently told a confidant that perhaps Giuliani should "be benched" from TV appearances temporarily if he can't stay on message. Giuliani, however, said that Trump "is encouraging me to do more of them. I try to keep them under control," adding that Trump is "very comfortable" with the strategy. (Politico / Associated Press / The Hill)

3/ Robert Mueller rejected Trump's request to answer questions from investigators in writing. Trump's legal team had been pushing for Mueller to allow him to submit written answers, because they're afraid that Trump might lie to or mislead investigators during an in-person interview. Giuliani said he would fight a potential subpoena for Trump to testify in front of a grand jury, but has stopped short of saying that Trump would ignore a subpoena from the special counsel. (CBS News)

4/ Trump's lawyers hope to decide by May 17 whether he will testify. May 17 is the one-year anniversary of the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump's lawyers contend that testifying would be a distraction from his work as president. However, in an informal, four-hour practice session, Trump was only able to walk through two questions. "Anyone can see he has great difficulty staying on a subject," one person familiar with the legal team's deliberations said. (Wall Street Journal)

5/ The shell company Michael Cohen used to pay Stormy Daniels received more than $1 million in payments from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and Fortune 500 companies with business before the Trump administration. At least $4.4 million flowed through the shell company Cohen used, Essential Consultants, starting shortly before Trump was elected president and continuing to this January. Essential Consultants received about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch. (New York Times)

  • AT&T confirmed it paid Cohen for "insights" about the Trump administration. According to Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, AT&T made four payments to Cohen's company totaling $200,000 in late 2017 and into early 2018. (CNBC)

6/ Mueller's investigators questioned a Russian oligarch about $500,000 in payments made to Michael Cohen after the election. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, alleges that Cohen received about $500,000 from Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin who was placed on a list of sanctioned Russians related to election interference. According to a dossier published by Avenatti, "Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017." Vekselberg is also one of two Russian oligarchs the FBI stopped earlier this year after their private jets landed in New York-area airports. (CNN / Daily Beast / NBC News)

  • Michael Cohen put up his Manhattan apartment as collateral for millions of dollars in loans to his taxi business. Businesses owned by Cohen and his wife owe as much as $12.8 million as of March. (Bloomberg)

  • Alex van der Zwaan turned himself in after being sentenced for lying to investigators as part of Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. van der Zwaan is the first person sentenced to prison as part of Mueller's investigation and will serve a 30-day sentence. (Politico)

7/ Senior White House staff are urging Trump to fire EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who is currently the subject of 11 federal investigations. Some Republicans are also calling for Pruitt's resignation. Trump has championed Pruitt up to this point, but support from the president appears to be waning as Pruitt's legal and ethical issues continue to pile up. (New York Times)

  • Internal EPA documents show Pruitt held private, high-level meetings at the Trump International Hotel in Washington with industry lobbyists on at least four occasions. (NBC News)

poll/ 63% of Americans believe that the US should not withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord, compared to 29% who believe the US should withdraw. (CNN)

poll/ 60% of voters oppose the Interior Department's plan to expand oil and gas drilling off coastal states. 70% of respondents supported states' rights to request a drilling exemption through a waiver. (The Hill)

poll/ 53% of Americans think Robert Mueller's investigation is politically motivated, while 44% think the Russia investigation is justified. 73% think Trump should cooperate and be interviewed by Mueller. (CBS News)

poll/ Trump's job approval rating hits 40%. 85% of Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing, while 89% of Democrats and 55% of independents disapprove. (CBS News)


Notables.

  1. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned after four women accused him of physically assaulting them. The women claim that he frequently hit them after drinking, often in bed and never with their consent. Two of the women say Schneiderman threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. Schneiderman resigned three hours after the allegations were made public. Schneiderman positioned himself as a public champion of women's rights and an outspoken figure in the #MeToo movement. (The New Yorker / New York Times)

  2. Fair-housing advocates sued HUD Secretary Ben Carson for suspending Obama-era fair-housing rules, which required every community receiving HUD funding to assess local segregation patterns, diagnose the barriers to fair housing and develop a plan to correct them. (Washington Post)

  3. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to North Korea to prepare for Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un. "The location is picked, the time and date, everything is picked and we look forward to having a great success," Trump said of the upcoming summit. It's Pompeo's second trip to North Korea in recent months. (CNN / Politico)

  4. Oliver North was named the National Rifle Association's new president. North worked for Reagan's National Security Council and was convicted as part of a scheme to sell weapons to Iran and use the proceeds to fund the rebel Contras in Nicaragua. (Politico)

  5. Melania Trump's "Be Best" campaign plagiarized a document from the Obama administration. Aside from the introductory page, the entire "Talking With Kids About Being Online" booklet is virtually identical to the "Net Cetera," a booklet published by the FTC under Obama. (The Guardian)

  6. Melania's office blamed "opposition media" for "lob[bing] baseless accusations" that her "Be Best" pamphlet plagiarized an FTC pamphlet, saying Melania received a "standing ovation" for her "strong speech." (Daily Beast)

Day 473: Fighting back.

1/ Trump plans to ask Congress to cut $7 billion from the Children's Health Insurance Program. $5 billion would come from the Children’s Health Insurance Fund, which reimburses states for certain expenses, and $2 billion would come from the Child Enrollment Contingency Fund, meant to ensure states have access to funds if there is a higher-than-expected enrollment. In total, Trump wants Congress to strip more than $15 billion in previously approved spending from more than 30 different programs. The White House insists that the CHIP cuts would not affect access to health care. (Washington Post)

2/ The Trump administration will refer every person caught crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution, separating parents from their children, instead of keeping them in detention together. "If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law," Jeff Sessions said. "If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border." Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed a memo Friday that directs the department to refer all suspected border-crossers to the Justice Department for prosecution under a federal statute that prohibits illegal entry. (Politico / NBC News / CNN)

3/ Trump: There is no obstruction of justice, "it's called Fighting Back." Trump attacked Robert Mueller's team, tweeting that "The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility." He added: "The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait 'till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!" (NPR / NBC News / The Hill / CNN)

4/ Robert Mueller interviewed Tom Barrack, one of Trump's closest friends and confidants. The special counsel interviewed Barrack as part of the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election campaign and afterwards. The questioning focused on Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, financial issues related to the campaign, the transition and Trump's inauguration in January 2017. The interview was "months ago." (Associated Press)

  • Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo said Robert Mueller's team seemed to already know the answers to the questions they asked him during his interview with the special counsel last week. "Every question they asked me," Caputo said, "they already had the answers to." (The Hill)

  • Roger Stone said he hasn't been contacted by Robert Mueller or his team despite reported scrutiny by investigators over his contact with WikiLeaks and meetings with Rick Gates during the 2016 campaign. (CNN)

5/ Former prosecutors expect Robert Mueller's investigation to either wrap up before or "go dark" for November's midterm elections, which are six months away. While Mueller doesn't face a legal deadline, the fall midterms are a political one and the special counsel wouldn't want to sway voters' decisions. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ Trump's midterm strategy: Raise the possibility of impeachment to caution Republicans against letting the House and Senate fall into Democratic control. "We have to keep the House because if we listen to Maxine Waters, she's going around saying, 'We will impeach him,'" Trump said at a recent rally in Michigan. "We gotta go out and we gotta fight like hell and we gotta win the House and we gotta win the Senate." A person who worked on strategy with Trump's team said the midterms pose more risk to Trump than his outstanding legal issues, including Robert Mueller's investigation. "It's always been about a potential impeachment." (Politico)

7/ House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes threatened to hold Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for failing to hand over classified materials related to the Russia investigation. On Friday, the Justice Department informed Nunes that providing the information on a "specific individual" could harm national security. Nunes has previously threatened on several occasions to hold Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents, only to not read the materials once they were made available to him. (CNN)

8/ Gina Haspel offered to withdraw her nomination to become the next CIA director after White House officials raised concerns that her role in the torture of suspected terrorists at a CIA black site in Thailand could derail her Senate confirmation hearing. Haspel oversaw a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand in late 2001, where at least one al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. Three years later she was involved in the destruction of almost 100 videotapes of the interrogations. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Marc Short, the White House's director of legislative affairs, met with Haspel and pushed for her to remain as the nominee. Trump tweeted his support for Haspel, while preemptively blaming Democrats if her nomination fails, saying "Democrats want [her] OUT because she is too tough on terror." (Washington Post / NBC News)

  • National security officials and some Republicans are preparing contingency plans in case Gina Haspel's nomination to lead the CIA fails. One plan calls for preparing Susan Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence, to potentially take Haspel's place. (CNN)

9/ Trump knew about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels several months before he denied any knowledge of it to reporters aboard Air Force One in April. While it's not clear when Trump learned of the payment, which Michael Cohen made in October 2016, Trump did know that Cohen had succeeded in keeping the allegations from becoming public when he denied it. Last week, Giuliani said Cohen was reimbursed between $460,000 and $470,000 for various payments. Cohen was mainly reimbursed through payments of $35,000 per month – or about $420,000 over 12 months – from Trump's personal trust. (New York Times)

10/ Trump's aides hired an Israeli spy firm to find incriminating material on diplomats in the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal. People inside the Trump administration reached out to investigators at an Israeli private intelligence agency last May to "get dirt" on Ben Rhodes, one of Obama's top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama. The move was part of an elaborate scheme to discredit the Iran deal. (The Guardian)

  • Trump will announce whether he will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal tomorrow. Trump called the accord a "disaster" and vowed to kill it during the 2016 presidential campaign. (New York Times)

poll/ 57% of Americans hold a favorable view of Melania Trump – up from 47% in January. (CNN)

poll/ 41% of Americans approve of Trump's job as president – 53% disapprove. (CNN)


Dept. of Things Rudy Giuliani Said Lately.

  1. If Trump agrees to an interview with Robert Mueller, he could invoke his 5th Amendment right to protect against self-incrimination by refusing to respond to some questions. (Los Angeles Times / New York Times)

  2. Trump is under no obligation to obey a subpoena, saying "we don't have to comply" with one. "They don't have a case on collusion, they don't have obstruction … He's the president of the United States. We can assert privilege other presidents [have]." (Politico / ABC News)

  3. Giuliani is "focused on the law more than the facts right now," when it comes to Trump's legal situation. "Well, I have just on been on board couple of weeks," Giuliani said. He continued: "The whole situation of the $130,000 doesn't require an analysis of the facts because it wasn't intended as a campaign contribution. It was intended as a personal, embarrassing, harassing claim." (CNN)

  4. "People don't go away for $130,000," Giuliani said, calling the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels "a nuisance payment" rather than "a settlement" and that "People don't go away for $130,000." (ABC News)

  5. It's possible that Michael Cohen paid off other women for Trump, Giuliani said. "I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes." Public records showed Cohen "gained access to as much as $774,000 … during the 2016 presidential campaign as he sought to fix problems for his boss." (Washington Post / The Guardian / Wall Street Journal)

  6. Trump is "committed to" regime change in Iran, saying it's "the only way to peace in the Middle East" and "more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal." (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to release a trove of 3,000 Russian-linked Facebook ads later this week. The release of the ads would offer a broad picture of how the social network was used by the pro-Russian Internet Research Agency during and after the 2016 presidential election. (Wall Street Journal)

  2. Melania Trump revealed her formal platform: "Be Best." The program will focus on well-being, fighting opioid abuse, and positivity on social media. The program will encourage children to "be best" in their emotional, social, and physical health. (CNN)

  3. John McCain told friends that he does not want Trump to attend his funeral and would like Mike Pence to come instead. During the 2016 presidential primary, Trump said McCain was considered a war hero only "because he was captured" during the Vietnam War and that he prefers military figures weren't taken prisoner by the enemy. (New York Times / NBC News)

  4. The Affordable Care Act calorie count rule went to into effect today, which requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to list calories on all menus and provide on-site additional nutritional information, such as fat and sodium levels. (Politico)

  5. Connecticut voted to pool their electoral college votes for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote. If Democratic governor Dannel Malloy signs the legislation into law, as expected, Connecticut will be the 12th jurisdiction – 11 states and the District of Columbia – to enter the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. (The Guardian)

  6. Trump urged voters in West Virginia to vote against Don Blankenship in the Republican Senate primary. A Blankenship win would hurt the party's chances of defeating Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in November. Blankenship "can't win the General Election in your State…No way!," Trump tweeted. "Remember Alabama." (Politico / New York Times)

Day 470: Oh my goodness.

1/ A federal judge criticized Robert Mueller's criminal case in Virginia against Paul Manafort, and questioned whether Mueller exceeded his prosecutorial powers. U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis said he believes that Mueller's motivation is to oust Trump from office, adding that "we don't want anyone in this country with unfettered power." Ellis also charged that lawyers from the special counsel's office "don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud," but rather "getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment." (Reuters / Washington Post / CNN / ABC News)

2/ Rudy Giuliani insisted Thursday night that Trump only recently found out that he had reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election in return for a nondisclosure agreement. Giuliani said he shared details of the payment with Trump about a week ago, and that Trump didn't realize he had paid Cohen back, responding: "Oh my goodness, I guess that's what it was for." (NBC News)

3/ Giuliani released a statement to "clarify views" about his remarks regarding Trump Friday afternoon, walking back his previous comments about the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels as well as about Trump's reason for firing James Comey. Giuliani maintained that the payment to Daniels doesn't constitute a violation of campaign finance laws, because "it would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not." Giuliani added that his "references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President's knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters." (CNBC / ABC News)

4/ Trump on Giuliani: He's still "learning the subject matter," "he knows it's a witch hunt," and "he'll get his facts straight." Trump added that "virtually everything said has been said incorrectly, and it's been said wrong, or it's been covered wrong by the press." Giuliani gave a series of interviews this week, claiming Trump had paid back Michael Cohen for the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Trump previously said he wasn't aware of the payment. "Rudy is a great guy," Trump said, "but he just started a day ago." Giuliani started last month. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

5/ Trump would "love to speak" with Robert Mueller, but only if he's "treated fairly." Trump said his lawyers have advised him against any talks, but he "would override my lawyer" if he "thought it was fair." He added: "We've done nothing wrong." (Reuters / CNN)

6/ Rudy Giuliani "think[s] it's 50/50" that Mueller will subpoena Trump to testify before a grand jury, "but I got to prepare for that 50 percent." Earlier this week, Mueller told Trump's legal team that he could "compel" Trump to testify before a grand jury. (ABC News)

7/ Scott Pruitt paid himself nearly $65,000 in reimbursements from two of his campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general. At least one election watchdog says the 2010 and 2014 payments are so vague that there is no way to tell if the payments were legal or not. The payments could be a violation of two key pillars of campaign finance regulation: campaign spending transparency and a prohibition on using campaign funds for personal purchases. (CNN)

  • Pruitt's scheduled trip to Israel was arranged by Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Israel, casino magnate, and Republican megadonor. The Israel trip was canceled days before his planned departure, after Pruitt's penchant for first-class travel on the taxpayers' dime was revealed. (Washington Post)

Notables.

  1. Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare for a drawdown of American troops in South Korea. The move comes weeks before a planned meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Trump told reporters that a time and date has been set for his summit with Kim and "we'll be announcing soon." (New York Times / ABC News)

  2. The State Department froze all funding for a Syrian humanitarian group known as the White Helmets. State Department support for the group is now "under active review" as part of a larger $200 million reduction in funding for recovery efforts in Syria. (CBS News)

  3. The Trump administration ended Temporary Protected Status for Hondurans, leaving potentially 57,000 people vulnerable to deportation. (McClatchy DC / Reuters)

  4. House Republicans plan to support Trump's military parade in the nation's capital, saying it will honor "a century of military service" and focus on those "who sacrificed to secure America's freedoms." The proposal is scheduled to be taken up by the House Armed Services Committee on May 9th. (Bloomberg)

  5. Qatar purchased a $6.5m apartment in one of Trump's New York towers after a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit alleging that Trump was breaching the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by collecting $3,151 a month from Qatar for the three apartments it already owned in the building. (The Guardian)

  6. Mike Pence's physician resigned following the collapse of Ronny Jackson's nomination for secretary of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Jennifer Peña was among those who detailed Jackson's professional misconduct to senators considering his nomination. (Politico)

  7. Devin Nunes opted not to read Justice Department records after publicly demanding a fully uncensored version of the documents that explain how the Russia investigation began in 2016. Nunes threatened Rod Rosenstein with contempt of Congress if he didn't comply. (CNN)

  8. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, falling below 4% for the first time since 2000. (CNN Money)

  9. Trump plans to appoint Dr. Mehmet Oz to the Sport, Fitness, and Nutrition council. Doctors and lawmakers have criticized Oz for promoting unscientific medical approaches on his show. (Washington Examiner)

  10. Mitt Romney's "favorite meat is hot dog." His "second favorite meat is hamburger." (Washington Examiner)

😳 WTF, right?

Day 469: Suckers.

1/ Rudy Giuliani: Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels, repaying Cohen through a series of payments over several months until the transactions were completed either in 2017 or early 2018. "The president repaid it," Giuliani told Sean Hannity, but Trump "didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this with my clients." Giuliani said that Cohen had "settled several problems for" Trump, and the payment was one of them. (Washington Post)

  • Giuliani: There's were "a few other situations that might have been considered campaign expenses" of a "personal nature" that Cohen took care of. "The president would have always trusted him as his lawyer, as my clients do with me. And that was paid back out of the rest of the money. And Michael earned a fee out of it." (Washington Post)

2/ Giuliani's comments directly contradicted Trump's earlier statement to reporters that he didn't know of any payments to Stormy Daniels or where Cohen got the money. Reporters asked him about both issues last month aboard Air Force One. (New York Times)

  • Stormy Daniels' former manager is cooperating with the FBI as part of its investigation into arrangement she struck with Cohen. (CNN)

3/ Trump tweeted that campaign funds "played no roll in this transaction" — misspelling the word "role." Trump and Giuliani both argued that the Stormy Daniels money came from Trump's personal funds. Legal experts say that since it came right before the election, the transaction could be considered an in-kind campaign political contribution, making it subject to campaign finance laws. The Trump team never reported it. Trump tweeted that he paid Cohen a monthly retainer, suggesting that the payment by Cohen to Daniels could not be considered a campaign contribution. "The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair," Trump tweeted, "despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair." Later, Giuliani said, "this was never about the campaign. This was about personal reputation. The money wasn't paid to help the campaign or hurt the campaign." (New York Times / USA Today)

  • Kellyanne Conway's husband, George Conway, tweeted the Federal Election Commission's personal gifts and loans rules, which state that "If any person, including a relative or friend of the candidate, gives or loans the candidate money 'for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office,' the funds are not considered personal funds of the candidate even if they are given to the candidate directly. Instead, the gift or loan is considered a contribution from the donor to the campaign, subject to the per-election limit and reportable by the campaign. This is true even if the candidate uses the funds for personal living expenses while campaigning." (The Hill)

  • The former White House ethics chief suggested that Trump admitted to filing a false financial disclosure by revealing he reimbursed Cohen. (The Hill)

4/ Giuliani: The special counsel's request for an interview is an effort to "trap" Trump "into perjury, and we're not suckers." Giuliani added that Robert Mueller's "silly deposition is about a case in which he supposedly colluded with the Russians but there's no evidence." He called on Jeff Sessions to "step in and close it and say enough is enough." (Washington Post)

  • Giuliani also called Jared Kushner "disposable" and warned that Mueller should stay away from Ivanka Trump, saying "the whole country will turn on" the special counsel if he doesn't. (CNBC)

  • Trump "fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn't a target of the investigation," Giuliani said during his appearance with Sean Hannity. He added that Comey was a "disgraceful liar" and a "very perverted man." (Daily Beast / Politico)

5/ The FBI monitored Michael Cohen's phone lines and at least one call between a Cohen line and the White House was logged. The monitoring was limited to a log of calls – known as a pen register – and was in place before the April 9th raid on Cohen's home, hotel room, and office. Giuliani called for "the Attorney General to step in, in his role as defender of justice," arguing that monitoring Cohen is a transgression of attorney-client privilege. (NBC News / CNBC / The Hill / Daily Beast)

[Editor's Note: NBC News originally reported that Cohen's phones were wiretapped, citing two sources. Later, three senior U.S. officials disputed that, saying that monitoring of Cohen's phones was limited to a log of calls made from a specific phone line or lines. Following the wiretapping news, Giuliani said: "We don't believe it's true" that Cohen was wiretapped. "You can't wiretap a lawyer, you certainly can't wiretap his client who's not involved in the investigation. No one has suggested that Trump was involved in that investigation."]

6/ Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo said it's clear that Mueller's team is "still really focused on Russia collusion," adding that Mueller's team knows "more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there." Caputo was interviewed this week behind closed doors by the Senate Intelligence Committee. (CNN)

7/ Mueller is focusing on alleged interactions between Rick Gates and Roger Stone during the campaign. Stone is a subject in Mueller's investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Stone publicly praised the hacker who claimed to have broken into the DNC's servers in 2016 and had dinner with Julian Assange — the founder of Wikileaks, which published the emails — in August 2016. The link between Gates and Stone goes back to their work at a D.C. lobbying firm which was founded by Stone and Paul Manafort. (CNBC)

8/ Mueller filed a request for 70 blank subpoenas in the Virginia court presiding over one of two criminal proceedings involving Paul Manafort. The two-page filing reveals little, but says that each subpoena recipient must appear in the Alexandria, Va., courthouse on July 10th to testify in the case. The 70 blank subpoenas amount to 35 total possible witnesses — in each case, a subpoena is needed for the witness and another is needed for the defense. (Washington Examiner / Courthouse News Service)


Notables.

  1. Executives at Cambridge Analytica, SCL Group, and the Mercer family created a new data firm last year called Emerdata. An executive and a part owner of SCL Group, Nigel Oakes, publicly described Emerdata as a way of rolling up the two companies under a new banner. (New York Times / Business Insider)

  2. Trump has all but decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. The administration wants to withdraw from the deal on May 12th, and the only question that remains is how Trump will go about announcing it. There is still a chance that the U.S. will remain a party to the deal by taking actions that don't amount to "a full pullout," but the source was unable to describe what that might look like. (Reuters)

  3. The White House is exploring plans to host multiple summits on race between athletes, artists, and Trump following last week's lovefest between the president and Kanye West. (Politico)

  4. A third top EPA official is leaving the agency amid scrutiny of Scott Pruitt's travel, spending, and condo rental. Associate Administrator Liz Bowman, the top public affairs official at the EPA, is leaving to become a spokeswoman for Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa. (Bloomberg)

  5. The House chaplain rescinded his forced resignation, saying he would like to serve out his full two-year term, "and possibly beyond," unless he is officially terminated. Paul Ryan does not have the authority to fire him. (New York Times)

  6. Trump doesn't believe John Kelly called him an "idiot," concluding that it was "fake news." (New York Times)


💬 What'd I miss? It's been a busy news day and I'm sure I'm overlooking some news of note. Let me know by hitting that button in the lower right-hand corner, tweeting @WTFJHT, or by using the hashtag #WTFJHT.

Day 468: A setup and a trap.

1/ Robert Mueller warned Trump's legal team that he could subpoena the president to appear before a grand jury if he refuses to speak to federal investigators involved in the Russia probe. Mueller raised the possibility of a subpoena during a tense meeting in March after Trump's attorneys insisted that Trump was under no obligation to speak with investigators. Unlike an interview with the special counsel, Trump would not be allowed to bring his lawyers to a grand jury hearing. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump's current legal team lacks the security clearances required to discuss sensitive issues during a presidential sit-down with Mueller. Trump's former attorney John Dowd was the only person on Trump's legal team with the proper clearance – he resigned in March. (Bloomberg)

3/ Trump plans to add Bill Clinton's impeachment lawyer to his legal team and replace Ty Cobb, who will leave at the end of May. Cobb has been the lead lawyer representing Trump in the special counsel investigation. Emmet Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach to the Mueller investigation than Cobb. (New York Times)

4/ Ty Cobb said a Trump interview with Mueller is "certainly not off the table." Rudy Giuliani added Trump's legal team was still "several weeks away" from determining whether Trump would sit for an interview with Mueller. He also said that the White House needs to be "more aggressive" with the special counsel, saying that a potential interview would be "max, two to three hours around a narrow set of questions." Cobb added that he has "no doubt" Mueller didn't leak the list of 49 questions for Trump. (ABC News / Washington Post / The Hill)

5/ Trump threatened to "get involved" in the "rigged system" over the Justice Department's ongoing dispute with the House Freedom Caucus about a memo outlining the topics being investigated by Robert Mueller. "There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax)," Trump tweeted, "and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup and trap)." (Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN)

6/ Trump dictated his 2015 glowing letter of health, his personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, claimed. "He dictated that whole letter. I didn't write that letter," Bornstein said. "I just made it up as I went along." The letter claimed, among other things, that Trump's "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary" and "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." (CNN)

7/ Cambridge Analytica is shutting down and will file for bankruptcy following mounting legal fees in the Facebook investigation. Cambridge Analytica's CEO called the current environment "futile" due to the company's damaged reputation and a loss of clients from the ongoing investigations into the company's data harvesting scandal that compromised the information of up to 87 million people. (Gizmodo / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

poll/ 61% of Americans think Trump regularly has trouble telling the truth. 76% of Republicans, however, believe Trump tells the truth all or most of the time. (NBC News)

poll/ 62% of voters say the Trump administration is being run chaotically. 68% of Republicans say the Trump administration is running well. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Mueller's office wants to wait two more months before sentencing Michael Flynn, who is cooperating with the special counsel after pleading guilty to lying to investigators. "Due to the status of the special counsel's investigation," Mueller's team told the court, "the parties do not believe that this matter is ready to be scheduled for a sentencing hearing at this time." (CNN)

  2. Ukraine stopped cooperating with Mueller regarding Paul Manafort at the same time the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country anti-tank missiles. Ukrainian law enforcement also allowed Konstantin Kilimnika, a potential witness to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, to leave for Russia, putting him out of reach for questioning. (New York Times)

  3. Iowa lawmakers passed the nation's most restrictive abortion legislation, which would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected – before some women even know they're pregnant. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is anti-abortion but hasn't said publicly if she will sign it into law. (NBC News)

  4. Planned Parenthood and two other reproductive rights groups are suing the Trump administration to block a "radical shift" in the federal Title X program. The changes would put the health of millions of low-income patients at risk by prioritizing practices such as the rhythm method over comprehensive sexual health services. (NPR)

  5. 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)

  6. Trump has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of violating the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which bars officials from accepting gifts or other payments from foreign governments without congressional approval. Trump is asking the judge to dismiss the complaint against him as an individual. (Reuters / CNN)

  7. Pence called Joe Arpaio a champion of "the rule of law." Trump pardoned Arpaio last year after his contempt of court conviction for ignoring a federal judge's order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. (Washington Post)

  8. A group of House of Representatives formally nominated Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end the Korean War and bring peace to the peninsula. (CNN)

Day 467: So disgraceful.

1/ Robert Mueller has at least 49 questions he wants to ask Trump regarding his ties to Russia and alleged obstruction of justice. The questions deal primarily with Trump's firing of James Comey and Michael Flynn, as well as his treatment of Jeff Sessions and the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians who claimed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Other topics of inquiry include Trump's conversations with Michael Cohen about a real estate deal in Moscow, Jared Kushner's attempts to set up a backchannel to Russia, contacts Trump had with Roger Stone, and Trump's 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant. (New York Times)

  • Read the questions Mueller wants to ask Trump about obstruction of justice and what they mean. (New York Times)

2/ Trump tweeted that it was "So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were 'leaked' to the media." The leak didn't come from Mueller's office, but were provided to the New York Times by a person outside of Trump's legal team. "No questions on Collusion," Trump added. "Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!" The list includes 13 questions related to possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump followed up with another tweet 45 minutes later: "It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!"(Washington Post / Politico)

3/ A former Mueller assistant believes Trump was the source of the leaked questions. "Lawyers wouldn't write questions this way, in my estimation," said Michael Zeldin, a CNN analyst and former assistant to Robert Mueller. "Some of the grammar is not even proper," he continued. "I think these are more notes that the White House has taken and then they have expanded upon the conversation to write out these as questions." Zeldin worked with Mueller in the early 1990s. (The Hill)

  • Nixon's White House counsel said that if the Trump administration leaked Mueller's questions it could qualify as obstruction of justice. John Dean said leaking the questions could be an attempt to "try to disrupt the flow of information" or tip off a witness. (The Hill)

4/ Trump allies in the House have drafted articles of impeachment against Rod Rosenstein. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said the draft articles are "a last resort option, if the Department of Justice fails to respond" to his requests for more information. The draft articles are not expected to garner much support. (Washington Post)

5/ Rod Rosenstein to the House Freedom Caucus: "The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted," adding "[t]hey can't even resist leaking their own drafts." A Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said the Republican effort to impeach Rosenstein would send a "terrible message" and that "We should protect our democracy, protect this process, protect the rule of law." (Axios / CNN)

6/ Trump's bodyguard and a Trump Organization lawyer took the original and only copy of Trump's medical chart from his doctor in February 2017 after Dr. Harold Bornstein told the New York Times that Trump takes Propecia. Keith Schiller, who was serving as director of Oval Office operations, also took lab reports under Trump's name as well as under the pseudonyms the office used for Trump. Bornstein said he was not given a form authorizing the release of the records, which is a violation of patient privacy law. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called taking possession of medical records "standard operating procedure for a new president." (NBC News)

  • The White House pushed back on claims that Dr. Ronny Jackson is no longer Trump's personal physician, despite reports that Jackson will not return to his previous role as physician to the president now that he has withdrawn his nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. (The Hill)

7/ Mike Pence's physician privately warned the White House in September that Ronny Jackson may have violated the federal privacy protections of Karen Pence and intimidated the vice president's doctor. The previously unreported incident is the first sign that the White House knew about Jackson's misconduct months before Trump and his staff defended Jackson's professionalism and insisted that he had been thoroughly vetted. The incident is also the first allegation of medical misconduct by Jackson, adding to a long line of other allegations against the former White House physician. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. California and 17 other states filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to protect national vehicle emission standards from being rolled back by the federal government. The states argue that the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failed to follow its own regulations and violated the Clean Air Act. (Los Angeles Times)

  2. A whistleblower from the EPA says that Scott Pruitt was "bold-faced" lying when he testified to Congress that no EPA employees were retaliated against for raising concerns about his spending decisions. (ABC News)

  3. Scott Pruitt's December trip to Morocco was arranged by a lobbyist who later won a $40,000-a-month contract from the Moroccan government for promoting the kingdom's cultural and economic interests. The cost of Pruitt's visit cost the EPA more than $100,000. (Washington Post)

  4. Pruitt's former head of security will meet with the House Oversight Committee tomorrow. Pasquale Perrotta, who left his job at the EPA yesterday, said he plans to "fully cooperate and answer any and all questions" from Congress. (ABC News)

  5. Michael Cohen was hit with more than $185,000 in new state warrants for unpaid taxes on his taxicab companies, bringing the total he owes New York state to $282,000. (Bloomberg)

  6. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo met with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigators as part of the panel's probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. (ABC News)

  7. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the GOP's decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate will likely increase the cost of health insurance for consumers. The mandate required most Americans to have health coverage or face a financial penalty. (Washington Times / Washington Post)

Day 466: Panic mode.

1/ Michael Avenatti: Trump is in "panic mode" and expects Michael Cohen to cooperate with investigators. "We're going to be able to prove that the president knew about the agreement," Stormy Daniels' attorney said, "and knew about the $130,000." Trump has denied a relationship with Daniels or knowledge of the payment to her, but told Fox and Friends that Cohen was representing him in the "crazy Stormy Daniels deal" – contradicting what he said on Air Force One. (The Guardian / The Hill)

2/ 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)

3/ A federal judge granted a 90-day delay in Stormy Daniels' suit against Trump, saying it appeared "likely" that Michael Cohen would be indicted in a related criminal investigation. The judge called Cohen "the alleged mastermind" of the deal, which makes his testimony "indispensable." Cohen plans to assert his Fifth Amendment rights if asked to answer any further questions about Daniels' suit, which seeks to void an agreement that led to a $130,000 payment Cohen facilitated before the 2016 presidential election. (Politico / Washington Post)

4/ Stormy Daniels filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump for his "total con job" tweet about the forensic sketch of a man who allegedly threatened her in 2011. The filing says the tweet was "false and defamatory," arguing that Trump was speaking about Daniels and that he "knew that his false, disparaging statement would be read by people around the world, as well as widely reported." (NBC News / ABC News / CNBC)

5/ Trump threatened to shut down the federal government in September if Congress doesn't agree to include more funding for his border wall in the next spending bill. "We come up again on September 28th," Trump said during a rally in Michigan on Saturday, "and if we don't get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security." (Reuters)

6/ John Kelly referred to Trump as "an idiot," according to four officials who heard the comments. Some current and former White House officials expect Kelly to leave by July – his one-year mark. Trump fired Rex Tillerson for calling him a "moron" in front of colleagues. (NBC News)

7/ Ronny Jackson will not return to his former job as the president's personal physician. A series of allegations caused Jackson to withdraw from consideration to become the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sean Conley took over for Jackson last month and will continue in that role. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • ✌️ Who the f*ck has left the Trump administration: A timeline of all the departures so far… (WTFJHT Community)

8/ Trump called on Montana Senator Jon Tester to resign and threatened to spread allegations about him in retaliation for releasing a document summarizing the allegations against Ronny Jackson. Trump said the allegations against Jackson were fabricated. "Tester started throwing out things that he's heard," Trump told the crowd. "Well, I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said them, he'd never be elected again." (New York Times)

9/ The Justice Department removed language from its manual related to gerrymandering, freedom of the press, and limits on prosecutorial power. Jeff Sessions' tough-on-crime policies were added to the manual, as well as language that underscores his focus on religious liberty, and Trump's attempts to crack down on government leaks. The last significant update to the manual happened in 1997. (BuzzFeed News)

10/ Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov maintained a direct line of communication before and after the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. The two continued to communicate via a series of text messages until at least December 2016. (BuzzFeed News)

11/ Natalia Veselnitskaya also followed up with the Trump campaign in the wake of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Veselnitskaya reached out to the Trump family after the election and continued to lobby for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. (CNN)

12/ The FBI questioned a Russian mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter linked to Putin, Trump, and Michael Cohen. The FBI showed up unannounced at Fedor Emelianenko's hotel room in Chicago. "All I can say is that, yeah, they showed up unannounced, knocking on our doors," Emelianenko's manager Jerry Millen said. Trump announced a joint venture involving MMA and Emelianenko in 2008. Cohen was the project's chief operating officer. (Associated Press / The Telegraph / NY Daily News)

poll/ 46% of Millennial voters support Democrats over Republicans for Congress – down about 9 percentage from two years ago. 28% expressed overt support for Republicans in the 2018 poll - about the same percentage as two years earlier. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. Trump is expected to speak at the NRA's annual meeting in Dallas later this week. The address would be Trump's third consecutive appearance at the NRA's annual event. (CNN / Washington Post)

  2. Kim Jong-un told South Korea that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the U.S. promised not to invade his country. The South Korean government also said Kim would invite experts and journalists to watch the shutdown next month of the country's only known underground nuclear test site. (New York Times)

  3. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. (Reuters)

  4. ICE's acting director will retire and leave his post in June. Thomas Homan was nominated for post by Trump, but the Senate hasn't acted on his confirmation. (Wall Street Journal)

  5. U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn't plan to increase its capacity to process or temporarily house the roughly 150 Central Americans waiting in Tijuana. (NBC News)

  6. The EPA granted a financial hardship waiver to an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn. The waiver enables Icahn's CVR Energy Inc to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the Renewable Fuel Standard program that is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports, and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix biofuels into gasoline and diesel each year. (Reuters)

Day 463: Very sick or very dumb.

1/ The House Intelligence Committee found "no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government" in the 2016 election. The 253-page report criticized both the Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns for "poor judgment and ill-considered actions" in their dealings with Russia-related figures. Democrats on the committee accused the Republicans of prematurely closing the investigation in "a systematic effort to muddy the waters and to deflect attention away from the President," asserting that Trump associates' willingness to accept Russian assistance suggests "a consciousness of wrongfulness, if not illegality." The report accused the intelligence community of "significant intelligence tradecraft failings," suggesting that Russia's main goal was to sow discord in the United States and not to help Trump win the election. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

2/ Minutes after the committee's report was released, Trump tweeted "Wow!" the Russia investigation is "A total Witch Hunt!" and "MUST END NOW." (The Hill)

3/ Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016, was an informant for Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika. "I am a lawyer, and I am an informant," she said in newly released emails. "Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general." Veselnitskaya insists that she met with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and others in a private capacity – not as a representative of the Russian government – despite an intermediary promising that Veselnitskaya had documents that would incriminate Clinton. (New York Times)

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley wants to release interview transcripts from the Trump Tower meeting. The committee anticipates releasing written responses from Natalia Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort following some redactions. (Politico)

4/ Trump tweeted that James Comey is "either very sick or very dumb" for having "illegally leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION." Comey is not under federal investigation for leaking classified information or lying. Trump added that Comey "lied all over the place" and "doesn't understand what he did or how serious it is." Comey wrote a series of contemporaneous memos documenting his interactions with Trump, which he leaked after being fired in May. "That memo was unclassified then," Comey said, and "it's still unclassified." (New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • Five months' worth of text messages between FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page were recovered. The messages span December 2016 to May 2017 and capture the immediate reactions to Trump's decision to fire James Comey, as well as the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. The cache of messages were originally thought to be missing, but the Justice Department's inspector general recovered them using forensic tools. (CNN)

5/ Trump thanked Kanye West for his support, tweeting that the rapper has "performed a great service to the Black Community." Earlier this week, Kanye tweeted that "the mob" could not stop him from loving Trump. He then shared a photo of himself in a Make America Great Again hat. Trump thanked West for the support, tweeting "very cool!" Trump also thanked Chance the Rapper for tweeting that "Black people don't have to be democrats." Trump Jr. took the opportunity to thank Chance for "breaking with convention." He confusingly included basketball emojis in his tweet. Chance the Rapper released a statement distancing himself from Trump, saying, "I'd never support anyone who has made a career out of hatred, racism and discrimination." (The Hill / Washington Post / VICE News / Daily Beast)

6/ Trump asked aides if he should invite Kanye West to the White House for dinner and a photo-op. A source close to Trump said they couldn't tell if Trump was "kidding" or not, but reiterated that Trump enjoys that West has "always said wonderful" things about him. (Daily Beast)


Notables.

  1. North and South Korea agreed to end their seven-decade war following a meeting between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in. The deal includes promises from both leaders to pursue "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Penninsula. Trump hailed the peace effort on Twitter, saying "KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!" (Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN)

  2. The Trump administration plans to freeze EPA fuel economy standards at 2020 levels through 2026, while revoking California's authority to enforce its own rules on tailpipe emissions. The draft proposal is not final. (Washington Post / Los Angeles Times)

  3. Federal prosecutors seized as many as 16 cell phones during the raids on Michael Cohen's office, home, and hotel room. Prosecutor Thomas McKay intends to hand over the seized materials to Cohen's attorneys by May 11. (New York Post)

  4. A federal judge dismissed Paul Manafort's civil suit challenging Robert Mueller's authority. Manafort's attorneys asked the judge to throw out all charges against Manafort, arguing that Mueller had exceeded his authority by bringing charges unrelated to Russian election interference. (CBS News / Politico)

  5. Paul Ryan said he fired Chaplain Patrick Conroy because members felt like House members' "pastoral needs" were not being met. Conroy said Ryan asked him to resign two weeks ago, a request that he complied with but was never given a reason for. (The Hill / New York Times)

  6. Scores of vacant positions in the Trump administration are causing problems for the federal government. The number of unfilled positions is at an all-time high and the staff shortages have halted pay raises for thousands of federal workers, stalled legislation to help home buyers with their mortgages, and prevented the IRS from pushing out regulations related to the new tax law. (Politico)

  7. Trump warned countries to not oppose the U.S.'s bid to host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada. "It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don't support us (including at the United Nations)?," Trump tweeted. (The Hill)

  8. The White House medical unit served senior officials as a "grab and go" clinic for prescription drugs. "You need to just give people these meds when they ask for it," multiple former medical unit employees said. (CNN)

  9. Trump will visit the UK on July 13th. The trip is being billed as a "flying visit" rather than an official state one, in which Trump would have been hosted by the queen. (BBC / Sky News)

  10. The US economy grew at a rate of 2.3% in the first quarter, slower than the 2.9% pace in the fourth quarter of 2017, but above Wall Street analysts' forecasts of 2%. (CNN Money / Washington Post)

  11. The conservative site RedState fired writers critical of Trump for being "insufficiently partisan." (CNN Money)

  12. Trump would like to appear regularly on "Fox and Friends," according to Kellyanne Conway. "The president has said he would like to perhaps come once a month and as news breaks," which caught the show's hosts off guard. They asked Conway to clarify what she meant. (The Hill)

Day 462: Extremely opposed.

1/ Ronny Jackson announced that he was withdrawing his name for consideration to be the secretary of Veteran Affairs following allegations that he handed out medication with no patient history, wrote himself prescriptions, and drank on the job. Jackson denied the allegations, including one that he "wrecked a government vehicle" after getting drunk at a Secret Service party, and said they were "completely false and fabricated." He continued: "If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years." (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR)

2/ Trump: I try to "stay away from" intervening in the Justice Department, "but at some point I won't." During Trump's half-hour phone interview on "Fox and Friends" he added: "I have decided I won't be involved. I may change my mind at some point because what is going on is a disgrace. It is an absolute disgrace." (CNN / ABC News / Washington Post)

3/ Jeff Sessions: The Mueller probe has taken on "a life of its own." Sessions defended his decision not to appoint a second special prosecutor to investigate Republicans' concerns about the FBI during a House appropriations budget hearing, saying the Justice Department needed to "be disciplined and stay within our classical procedure and rules" before rushing to hire more special counsels. (Reuters)

4/ Trump is "extremely opposed" to granting Robert Mueller an interview. Trump initially was open to meeting with Mueller, rejecting warnings from his lawyer John Dowd. His willingness to meet with the special counsel has cooled since Dowd resigned in March and investigators raided Michael Cohen's office and residences in April seeking communications between the lawyer and Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election. (Washington Post)

  • Rudy Giuliani met with Mueller to discuss whether Trump will sit for an interview with the special counsel as part of the Russia investigation. After joining Trump's legal team last week, Giuliani signaled his intention to end the Russia investigation within "maybe a couple of weeks," adding that "I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country." (Politico)

5/ Trump admitted that Michael Cohen represented him in the "crazy Stormy Daniels deal," marking the first time Trump has acknowledged that Cohen represented him as part of a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels. The statement by Trump is a "hugely damaging admission," Michael Avenatti, Daniels' attorney, said, and one he plans to use in his case against Trump and Cohen. Earlier this month, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he was not aware of the payment by Cohen to Daniels, saying, "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael." (NBC News / Washington Post / The Hill / Fox News)

6/ Michael Cohen will plead the Fifth Amendment in the lawsuit filed against Trump by Stormy Daniels, allowing Cohen to avoid being deposed and potentially revealing information about the payments Cohen made or helped arrange to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. "I will assert my 5th Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York," Cohen said. Trump proceeded to distance himself from Cohen, saying, "This has nothing to do with me. I've been told I'm not involved." (New York Times / The Hill)

  • Trump told the federal judge overseeing the Cohen investigation that he wants to personally review records seized during raids on Cohen's home and residences earlier this month in order to prevent prosecutors or the FBI from seeing privileged information. The judge already ruled against Trump and Cohen's original request, but said she would be willing to consider their request to have a third party review the records before prosecutors do. (ABC News)

  • A former Manhattan federal judge will determine what materials seized in the Cohen raids are protected by attorney-client privilege. (Politico)

7/ Trump confirmed that he spent the night in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant and accused James Comey of putting "a lot of phony stuff" in his memos, which were released last week. "Of course I stayed there," Trump said. The admission contradicts statements Trump made to Comey on two separate occasions that he never stayed the night at the Ritz-Carlton during the trip, which is why – he claims – there is no way the "golden showers thing" happened. Flight records also confirm that Trump stayed overnight in Moscow. (The Hill / Bloomberg)

8/ The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation to shield Mueller from being fired by Trump. The bill, approved 14-7, would delay any action to fire a special counsel for 10 days and require that three federal judges review the decision. Mitch McConnell said he would not bring the bill to the floor. (Politico / Washington Post)

9/ Trump on his presidency: "I would give myself an A-plus." Asked during a "Fox and Friends" interview how he would grade his presidency, Trump answered by first complaining that the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is a "hoax" and a "witch hunt" orchestrated by Democrats before eventually replying: "I would give myself an A-plus." (The Hill)

poll/ 58% of voters approve of Robert Mueller's conduct so far, saying they believe he has "stayed within the boundaries of the Russia investigation." (The Hill)

poll/ 74% of voters don't want Trump to fire Robert Mueller. 52%, however, say they oppose impeaching Trump if he fires the special counsel. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 71% of voters think Trump will fire Mueller before the investigation is complete. 56% think it's likely that Mueller will find Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses. (Fox News)


Notables.

  1. One of the lobbyists closest to Trump is working for an ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Brian Ballard's firm, Ballard Partners, disclosed last month that it was working with a trading company based in Dubai called ASM International General Trading LLC. ASM is affiliated with a member of Syria's wealthy Foz family, which has close ties to the Assad government. "We're going to do more due diligence,” Ballard said. "We're not the CIA, but if it were to turn out that there was any connection at all, we would withdraw from our representation of the Dubai trading company." Ballard's firm also represents an anti-Assad group. (The Daily Beast)

  2. The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as secretary of state in a 57-to-42 vote. Pompeo was supported by all the Republican senators and by seven Democrats — five of whom face re-election this year in states that Trump won in 2016. (New York Times / Politico)

  3. Paul Ryan pushed out the House chaplain. "As you have requested," Patrick Conroy wrote to Ryan, "I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives." (The Hill)

  4. Trump said he would support swapping the Electoral College for the popular vote, because the latter would make the presidency "much easier to win." (Politico)

  5. The Department of Homeland Security will end the humanitarian protection known as Temporary Protected Status for Nepal with a delay of 12 months to "allow for an orderly transition." (ABC News)

  6. The FBI said it told the White House about the allegations of spousal abuse by Rob Porter in March 2017, contradicting claims made by top Trump administration officials. (New York Times / The Hill)

  7. The House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned Scott Pruitt over allegations of ethical lapses and excessive spending. The ranking member on the committee called Pruitt an "embarrassment to President Trump" and said that if he were president, "I'd just get rid of you." (New York Times / NBC News)

Day 461: Virtually unexplained.

1/ A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration must resume accepting new DACA applications, saying the Department of Homeland Security's legal explanation for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was "arbitrary," "capricious," and predicated on "virtually unexplained" grounds and therefore "unlawful." DHS now has 90 days to better explain its reasoning for canceling the program, or the judge will rescind the government memo that terminated the program. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News)

2/ Mick Mulvaney advised bankers and lobbyists that increasing campaign contributions would help weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – the agency he runs. Mulvaney capped off his speech at a American Bankers Association conference by arguing that trying to sway legislators with campaign contributions was one of the "fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy." Mulvaney, who is rumored to be at the top of the list when it comes to Trump’s next pick for chief of staff, also revealed that he would only meet with lobbyists who contributed to his campaign during his time as a congressman. "If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you," Mulvaney explained. "If you're a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you." (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Ben Carson proposed tripling rent increases for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies, which would affect more than 4.5 million families. The proposed legislation requires congressional approval. (Washington Post)

4/ In 2015, Ronny Jackson drunkenly banged on the hotel room door of a female employee in the middle of the night. The Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake then-president Barack Obama. (CNN)

  • Jackson was known as "the candy man" inside the White House for "hand[ing] out the prescription drugs like they were candy." (CNN)

5/ Scott Pruitt's head of security, Pasquale Perrotta, moonlighted for American Media Inc. during the 2016 presidential campaign. A.M.I. owns the National Enquirer, which purchased the rights to Karen McDougal's story about her alleged affair with Trump. A.M.I.'s chairman, David Pecker, is a close friend of Trump's. Perrotta received a waiver from the EPA under the Obama administration to hold outside employment. (New York Times)

6/ Trump praised Kim Jong Un as a "very honorable" person and expressed hope their meeting will occur "as soon as possible." Trump sidestepped the question when asked to explain his comment that Kim, whom he once mocked as "Little Rocket Man," is an "honorable" person. (CNN / The Hill)

7/ Don Blankenship is running for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia while living in a $2.4 million villa in Nevada. Blankenship refers to himself as an "American competitionist," despite admiring China's state-controlled economy and expressing interest in obtaining Chinese citizenship. Blankenship spent a year in prison for his involvement in a coal mining explosion that killed 29 people during his time as a coal mining executive. He is running as a champion of miners and using ads to dispute the settled facts regarding his role in the explosion. (New York Times)

poll/ 22% of voters reported seeing paycheck increases in April due to the new tax law, down from 27% the month prior. 55% of voters said they hadn't noticed a bump in April, compared to 50% in March. (Morning Consult–Politico)

Day 460: Do not worry.

1/ Jeff Sessions will not recuse himself from the ongoing criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. By staying involved in the Cohen case, Sessions will receive briefings on the investigation, which puts Sessions in the position of being asked by Trump for information about the Cohen investigation. Trump condemned the FBI raid on his longtime lawyer and has called Sessions weak for recusing himself from the Robert Mueller probe. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

2/ The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee postponed Ronny Jackson's confirmation hearing following reports that Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs oversaw a hostile work environment as the White House physician, allowed the overprescribing of drugs, and drank on the job. Jackson administered Trump's annual physical in January, reporting that there is "no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes," and that Trump could live to 200 years old if he had a healthier diet. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • A 2012 inspector general report suggested removing Ronny Jackson and a rival physician from their White House roles after finding a "lack of trust in the leadership" and the two having exhibited "unprofessional behaviors" as part of a power struggle over the White House medical unit. (Associated Press)

3/ The White House stands by Ronny Jackson, but Trump hinted that Jackson might withdraw from consideration because the process is "too ugly, and it's too disgusting." Trump said he doesn't want to "put a man through a process like this" over "ugly allegations." (Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Iran warned that it could withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty after Trump threatened to restore economic sanctions unless European allies fix what he has called a "terrible deal" by May 12. "If they restart their nuclear program," Trump said, "they will have bigger problems than they ever had before." French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. prime minister Theresa May have been coordinating potential side agreements they hope will convince Trump to remain part of the pact. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters)

5/ The White House will host its first state dinner for France's President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, tonight. As a candidate, Trump argued that "We shouldn't have [state] dinners at all. We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table." Melania Trump, meanwhile, has instructed her staff not to worry about the details of the dinner. "Do not worry," she wrote in an email to staff. (New York Times / NBC News)

  • No Democrats or members of the press were invited to the state dinner – a departure from past dinners. Sen. John Kennedy, who was one of four members of Congress to be invited, said "it would have sent a better message, just my opinion, if we included a cross-section of Congress." (The Hill)

6/ The FBI interviewed Paul Manafort in March 2013 and July 2014 while he was working as a political consultant for a Ukrainian political party. Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, who also held a top role with Trump's campaign, was interviewed by the FBI in July 2014. Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in February of this year and is cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigation. (Washington Post)

7/ Mueller's raid on Paul Manafort's condo and storage locker last July was to gather documents related to the Trump Tower meeting between Russian lobbyists and Manafort, Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner. A new court filing by the special counsel confirmed that Mueller's team raided Manafort's home in July 2017 to recover "Communications, records, documents, and other files involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, as well as Aras and Amin Agalorov." Manafort has been indicted on five counts, including conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, and is fighting to suppress evidence collected in the raid. (Newsweek / Politico / Bloomberg / Law and Crime)

8/ Republicans expect to win today's special House election in Arizona, but the race in the conservative 8th Congressional District is being looked at closely, after Democrats recently won House and Senate seats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, respectively. Trump won the district by 21 points in 2016, but many GOP operatives believe the best-case scenario is a high single-digit margin of victory, which would be "a wake-up call to Republican elected officials that this is a radically different off-year," and that "this anti-Trump mood has reached new a stratosphere [sic]." (Politico / NPR)

9/ Arizona state Democrats blocked Republicans from changing how the state fills vacant Senate seats. The GOP measure would have ensured that John McCain's seat wouldn't be on the November ballot if he leaves office early for reasons related to his ongoing treatment for brain cancer. The measure would have allowed the governor to appoint individuals to open seats – and hold them for two full years – if the seat becomes vacant within 150 days of a scheduled primary election. (Associated Press / The Hill)

study/ People voted for Trump because they were worried about losing their social status – not economic anxiety. A new study finds that Trump voters weren't losing income or jobs. In particular, white, Christian, and male voters felt their status in society was threatened, and that Trump would restore it. (The Atlantic / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Sean Hannity's real estate venture bought properties through a dealer who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently buy foreclosed homes. Jeff Brock pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges of bank fraud and conspiracy for rigging foreclosure auctions between 2007 and 2012. Brock purchased 11 homes in Georgia following foreclosures and sold them to Hannity's shell company in 2012. There is no evidence that Hannity was aware of Brock's involvement in fraud. (The Guardian)

  2. George H. W. Bush is alert but remains in intensive care. Bush was admitted to the hospital Monday morning after he contracted an infection that spread to his blood and led to sepsis. His doctor said he is "responding to treatments and appears to be recovering." (CNN)

  3. Scott Pruitt will face two congressional hearings this week. The hearings will focus on the EPA's budget, but they will also give lawmakers an opportunity to grill Pruitt about other concerns and allegations about the agency's use of taxpayer money under Pruitt's leadership. (ABC News)

  4. Pruitt proposed a "transparency" rule that would limit the EPA's ability to use the best science to write new regulations. Under the rule, only studies where the raw, underlying data – including participants' personal health data – is made publicly available would qualify. (Washington Post)

  5. Russian hackers likely targeted more than 21 states before the 2016 election, a top Department of Homeland Security official said. (The Hill)

Day 459: Under open assault.

1/ Flight records contradict Trump's claim he never spent the night in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. According to James Comey's memos, Trump twice told the now-former FBI director that there is no way the "golden showers thing" happened because he claims he arrived on the morning of the event and left shortly after it ended in the early hours of the next morning. Christopher Steele's dossier alleges that Trump had prostitutes perform "golden showers" on the bed in the Ritz-Carlton's presidential suite in 2013 during the Miss Universe pageant. Flights records show Trump arrived in Moscow on November 8th, 2013, and left at 3:58am on November 10th, 2013. (Bloomberg)

  • Trump's false claims to Comey about Moscow stay could aid Mueller. James Comey says the president told him that he never spent the night in Moscow in 2013, but flight records, social media and his bodyguard's testimony show otherwise. (Politico)

  • TIMELINE: An hour-by-hour recap of Trump's 2013 visit to Moscow. (Bloomberg)

  • Trump flew to Moscow on November 7th, 2013, landing Friday, November 8th.

  • The next day, Trump was at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, did a tour of Moscow, and attended the Miss Universe pageant, followed by an afterparty that started at 1am.

  • Keith Schiller, Trump's bodyguard, testified before Congress that "a Russian participant" offered to send five women to Trump's hotel room on November 9th. Schiller reportedly rejected the offer and stood outside Trump's hotel room until he went to bed for the night.

  • The jet Trump took to Moscow left at 3:58am on the night of November 9th, 2013, landing in New Jersey at 4:11am local time.

2/ Trump's new national security adviser chaired a nonprofit that promoted misleading and anti-Muslim news. Bolton was chairman of the Gatestone Institute from 2013 until last month. The advocacy group claims that a "jihadist takeover" of Europe is leading to a "Great White Death," which was amplified by a Russian troll factory that sought to portray Western society as at risk of "Islamization." (NBC News)

3/ The Trump administration is challenging Native Americans' exemption from new Medicaid work rules because it would be illegal preferential treatment. Meaning Native Americans would need to get a job if they want to keep their health care in states that institute work requirements for Medicaid. The administration has allowed three states – Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana – to begin instituting such requirements, and at least 10 other states have submitted or are preparing applications. (Politico)

4/ The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of Mike Pompeo's nomination for secretary of state, after Rand Paul flipped from opposing to supporting. The committee approved Pompeo by an 11-to-10 vote along party lines and is expected to win confirmation from the full Senate later this week. Earlier, Trump tweeted that it's "hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State," claiming Democrats "will not approve hundreds of good people" by "maxing out" the confirmation process. (Politico / Reuters / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders: Democrats voting against Pompeo's nomination don't "love this country" and have to decide if "they hate this president" more. The press secretary's comments came while she was appearing on Fox & Friends. (Daily Beast)

  • Pompeo has the support of three Democratic senators, increasing his chances of being confirmed by the full chamber. (CNN)

5/ 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)

  • Hillary Clinton: The First Amendment is "under open assault" in the Trump era. "We are living through an all-out war on truth, facts and reason," Clinton said. "When leaders deny things we can see with our own eyes, like the size of a crowd at the inauguration, when they refuse to accept settled science when it comes to urgent challenges like climate change … it is the beginning of the end of freedom, and that is not hyperbole. It’s what authoritarian regimes through history have done." (Washington Post)

6/ The former lawyer for both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal is cooperating with investigators in the Michael Cohen probe. Keith Davidson provided the Southern District of New York with "certain limited electronic information" about the confidentiality agreements he negotiated between Cohen and the two women regarding their alleged affairs with Trump. (CNN)

  • Stormy Daniels is telling the truth that somebody threatened her to stay silent about her affair with Trump, according to her friend and fellow porn star. Jessica Drake is named in the nondisclosure agreement Daniels signed as somebody with whom she discussed her alleged affair with Trump. Drake claims she refused a $10,000 offer to have sex with Trump after meeting him during a Lake Tahoe golf event in 2006. (ABC News)

7/ Kellyanne Conway accused CNN of sexism for asking about her husband's critical Trump tweets. Conway said the question by CNN's Dana Bash "was meant to harass and embarrass," which was inappropriate and created a "double standard." Conway's husband, George Conway, has been tweeting and retweeting critical comments about Trump, but deleted a handful of tweets last month. (The Hill / Politico / CNN)

8/ During Barbara Bush's funeral, Trump tweeted about the DNC's lawsuit over hacked emails, accused James Comey of leaking classified memos, and called Jeff Sessions "Mr. Magoo" and Rod Rosenstein "Mr. Peepers." Melania Trump, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama, meanwhile, attended the service. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Mika Brzezinski called Trump's tweets "especially insulting to the United States of America" on a day "the world said goodbye to Barbara Bush." (The Hill)

9/ Trump's legislative affairs director won't rule out Trump firing Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, saying the special counsel has moved outside his original mandate. Marc Short said: "We believe the scope has gone well beyond what was intended to be Russian meddling in the election," adding, "We don't know how far off the investigation is going to veer." (Politico)

poll/ 78% of Americans believe teachers are underpaid, but only 52% support the teacher walkouts protesting low teacher pay and school funding cuts. (Associated Press)

poll/ 59% of registered voters believe that Trump does not deserve to be re-elected. 37% of voters say Trump deserves re-election, which is on par with Clinton (38%) and Obama (37%) who had similar figures at the time of the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections, respectively. (Gallup)


Notables.

  1. Mitt Romney failed to win the Utah Republican Party's nomination and will now face 11 challengers in a June primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch. (Reuters)

  2. The Treasury Department eased sanctions on a Russian aluminum producer tied to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to Putin. (Politico)

  3. A federal appeals court ruled that the Trump administration cannot delay fines for "gas-guzzling" cars that violate fuel efficiency standards. In July 2017, the Department of Transportation indefinitely postponed a scheduled increase in penalties for automakers while it reviewed the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program. (The Hill)

  4. The Supreme Court will consider Trump's third iteration of his travel ban on Wednesday, which bars most nationals from a small group of mostly Muslim nations. This is the first time the court has considered the merits of the policy. (Washington Post)

  5. Sean Hannity is linked to a group of shell companies that spent $90 million buying more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade through foreclosures and a Department of Housing and Urban Development assistance program. For some of the mortgages, Hannity obtained funding from HUD under the National Housing Act loan program, which the Fox News host didn't disclose when he interviewed HUD secretary Ben Carson on his show last June. (The Guardian)

  6. Hannity called it "ironic" that he's "being attacked for investing my personal money in communities that badly need such investment." In 2014, Hannity bought two apartment complexes in Georgia for $22.7 million, but funded the purchases with $17.9 million in mortgages through HUD's National Housing Act program. (Politico)

  7. The White House is cautioning Republicans and conservative allies to temper their defense of Scott Pruitt. Four Republicans and 170 Democrats have called on Pruitt to step down. (Bloomberg)

  8. The RNC spent nearly $225,000 at Mar-a-Lago in March, according to Federal Election Commission reports. (The Hill / Daily Beast)

  9. Ivana Trump: Donald "should just go and play golf" instead of running for reelection in 2020. "I'll tell you something, I don't think it’s necessary," she said. "I think he probably [misses] a little bit of freedom, I don't think he probably knew how much is involved of being the president. It's so [much] information — you have to know the whole world." (Page Six)

Day 456: Unprecedented treachery.

1/ The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks alleging a conspiracy to help Trump win the 2016 election. The 66-page lawsuit claims that Russian hacking, the Trump associates' contacts with Russia, and the public cheerleading by the campaign of the hacks amounted to conspiracy to interfere in the election and cause damage to the Democratic Party. DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement: "This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency." If the lawsuit proceeds, Trump and his campaign aides could be forced to submit to depositions that require them to answer questions under oath. (Washington Post / Reuters / New York Times / CNN)

2/ Trump invited Putin to the U.S. during a phone call on March 20. Trump reportedly said he "would be glad to see [Putin] in the White House," according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Reuters)

3/ Roger Stone: Trump has long treated Michael Cohen "like garbage." Trump's lawyers and advisers believe Cohen, faced with the prospect of legal fees and criminal charges, could end up cooperating with federal officials investigating him for the work he did for Trump. A half-dozen people familiar with the relationship, say Trump had treated Cohen poorly for years, with insults, dismissive statements and, at least twice, threats of being fired. Cohen, who once said he would "take a bullet" for Trump, tried to apologize to Melania Trump for the news about Stormy Daniels. (New York Times)

4/ A federal judge said Michael Cohen will needs to plead the Fifth Amendment in order to delay the Stormy Daniels lawsuit. The judge gave Cohen until next Wednesday to do so. Cohen wanted the judge to grant a stay for at least 90 days. (NBC News)

5/ The Justice Department sent partially redacted copies of James Comey's memos – 15 pages in total – to Congress, which leaked to the public within hours. The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration. Following the release, Trump tweeted that the memos "show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION." (Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • READ: James Comey's memos. (DocumentCloud)

  • Six takeaways from the Comey memos. (New York Times)

  • What the Comey memos tell us about Trump. (Axios)

  • At least two of the memos that Comey gave to a friend contained information that officials now consider classified, prompting a review by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ Trump was annoyed with Michael Flynn for making Putin wait six days for a return congratulatory phone call. Trump complained that Flynn "has serious judgment issues" as a result. Days before Michael Flynn was fired, then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked Comey if Flynn's communications were being monitored under a FISA surveillance warrant. (Reuters / The Guardian)

7/ Trump tweeted that Michael Flynn's life is now "totally destroyed" while "Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book." Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to federal agents and is cooperating with Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and whether the Trump campaign was involved. (Bloomberg)

8/ Putin once told Trump that Russia has "some of the most beautiful hookers in the world," according to Comey. In a memo dated Feb. 8, 2017, Comey writes that Trump "brought up the 'Golden Showers thing,'" saying that "'the hookers thing' is nonsense." (The Hill)

9/ Comey explained why he thinks "it's possible" that Russia has compromising information on Trump. First, he says, is that "the President is constantly bringing it up with me to deny it." And, second, Trump "wouldn't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private, which struck me as odd." (CNN)

10/ Trump pressed Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray to find derogatory information on two senior FBI officials. Trump wanted to know why Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were still in their jobs, following allegations by his allies that they had been disloyal and had unfairly targeted him and his administration. Trump wanted information about Strzok and Page turned over to congressional Republicans in order to discredit them. (Vox)

  • BACKGROUND:

  • Strzok helped oversee the probe of Hillary Clinton's email use and the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Page provided legal and strategic advice about both investigations to both Comey and McCabe.

  • The two repeatedly disparaged Trump in their private text messages to each other.

11/ Trump's legal team is still negotiating a possible interview with Robert Mueller, according to White House lawyer Ty Cobb. "The Cohen searches have not yet changed our strategy or level of cooperation with the special counsel," Cobb said, referring to recent raids on the home, hotel room and workplace of Michael Cohen. At the time, it was reported that Trump was "less inclined" to sit for an interview with Mueller. (Daily Beast)

12/ Trump complained to advisers that Neil Gorsuch has been too liberal in recent cases. Trump was "incensed" that Gorsuch voted against the administration on an immigration case, renewing Trump's doubts that Gorsuch would be a reliable conservative. (Washington Post / The Hill)

13/ In May 1984, Trump – pretending to be a Trump Organization executive – lied about his wealth to a Forbes reporter so he could make the Forbes 400 list. Trump, posing as "John Barron," called Jonathan Greenberg and claimed he was worth $100 million. At the time, Trump was worth less than $5 million. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump will not attend Barbara Bush's funeral in order to "avoid disruptions" and out of respect for her family and friends. (CNN)

  2. Scott Pruitt spent $45,000 to fly a five-person "advance" team to Australia to prepare for meetings that were later canceled. (Reuters)

  3. Mitch McConnell is intent on confirming as many conservative judges as possible to lifetime appointments this year, in part out of concern that Democrats may take back the Senate. Trump has already nominated 69 judges, but there are still 149 total vacancies. (Politico)

  4. Andrew McCabe plans to sue the Trump administration for defamation and wrongful termination and other possible civil claims. (Axios / The Hill)

  5. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp will support Mike Pompeo's nomination for secretary of state, becoming the first Democrat to say she'll vote for the current CIA director. Pompeo is expected to receive an unfavorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but GOP leaders plan to bring the nomination to the Senate floor anyway late next week. (CNN / New York Times)

  6. A man linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was captured in Syria by U.S.-backed forces more than a month ago. The 9/11 Commission report, a Congressional account of the 2001 attacks, said Mohammad Haydar Zammar was an "outspoken, flamboyant Islamist" who extolled "the virtues of violent jihad." (Reuters)

  7. Jared Kushner's family business received a federal subpoena. Investigators are looking into whether the real estate company repeatedly filed false paperwork that claimed it had zero rent-regulated tenants, when it had hundreds. (Wall Street Journal / The Hill)

  8. Wall Street banks saved at least $3.59 billion combined in taxes last quarter under Trump's new tax law. (Associated Press)

Day 455: Clean up the mess.

1/ Rod Rosenstein told Trump last week that he isn't a target of any part of Robert Mueller's investigation. Following the meeting, Trump told his advisers that it's not the right time to remove Rosenstein or Mueller since he's not a target of the probe. Yesterday, at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told reporters "they've been saying I'm going to get rid of [Rosenstein and Mueller] for the last three months, four months, five months." He added: "And they're still here." While Trump may not officially be a target now, he could become one in the future. (Bloomberg)

2/ Trump's congressional allies threatened to impeach Rod Rosenstein if he didn't provide them with documents about the FBI's conduct related to the Russia probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. Representatives Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan said Rosenstein could also be held in contempt of Congress if he doesn't satisfy their demands for documents. Critics say the two Republicans are attempting to build a case against Rosenstein in hopes of closing the Mueller investigation. (Washington Post)

3/ The Justice Department will send James Comey's memos to three congressional committees, which document the former FBI director's interactions with Trump. It's unclear if the memos will be redacted, but the House Intelligence, Oversight and Judiciary committees requested copies of the memos in both redacted and de-classified/un-redacted form last week. The memos are believed to be central to Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation. (CNN / ABC News / Politico)

4/ The special counsel suspects that Paul Manafort served as a "back channel" between the Trump campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the presidential election. Manafort "had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians," Justice Department attorney Michael Dreeben said. "Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things." Manafort's lawyers argued that Robert Mueller exceeded his authority when he indicted Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. (Bloomberg)

5/ Trump: We'll put sanctions on Russia "as soon as they very much deserve it," adding that "there has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump." The third-person comment capped a four-day stretch of confusion over whether the Trump administration would punish Moscow for its role in a recent chemical attack in Syria. (The Hill)

6/ Michael Cohen dropped a pair of libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the publication of the dossier that details alleged ties between Trump and Russia. The dossier claims Cohen met with Russian operatives somewhere in Europe to "clean up the mess" created by the public disclosures of Trump associates' ties to Russia. Pursuing the suit would require Cohen to "face a discovery process that would have forced him to defend his reputation and address the allegations of the Steele dossier under penalty of perjury." (Politico / Washington Post)

7/ Trump's legal advisers warned that Michael Cohen would flip and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges. "They're going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings," said lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who met with Trump and his staff over two days at the White House last week. Jay Goldberg, who represented Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s, told the president not to trust Cohen, and on a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Cohen "isn't even a 1." (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

8/ The Justice Department's inspector general referred its finding to federal prosecutors to determine whether Andrew McCabe should be charged with a crime for repeatedly misleading investigators. The referral came days after the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report accusing McCabe of demonstrating a lack of candor and releasing sensitive information related to an ongoing criminal investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

9/ Rudy Giuliani is joining Trump's personal legal team to "negotiate an end" to the special counsel's investigation "for the good of the country." Giuliani added: "I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller." (CNBC / Washington Post)

poll/ White evangelical support for Trump is at an all-time high, with 75% holding a favorable view of the president and 22% holding an unfavorable view. (Public Religion Research Institute)


Notables.

  1. Trump will skip his summit with Kim Jong Un if he thinks the talks aren't going to be "fruitful," but said he'll "remain flexible." (Politico)

  2. North Korea said it no longer demands that the U.S. remove troops from South Korea as a condition for denuclearization. For decades, North Korea demanded the withdrawal of 28,500 American troops, citing their presence as a pretext to justify its development of nuclear weapons. (New York Times)

  3. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration's cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program were unlawful. The administration notified 81 organizations last summer that their five-year grants would end in 2018, rather than in 2020. (The Hill)

  4. More than two dozen House and Senate Republicans have refused to endorse Trump's bid for re-election. Trump announced his re-election bid immediately after taking office. (CNN)

  5. 43 House Republican incumbents have raised less money than their Democratic challengers in the first three months of 2018, and 16 Republican incumbents have less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers. (Politico)

  6. The Senate confirmed Trump's pick for NASA administrator, despite deep concerns from Democrats that he lacks the scientific and management expertise to lead the space agency. (Washington Post)

  7. A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from making federal grant funding contingent on cooperation with immigration enforcement. A three-judge panel on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the administration exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement the conditions without approval from Congress. (Politico / The Hill)

  8. Trump tweeted that he will not pay for California's new deployment of National Guard troops after Gov. Jerry Brown said the troops will focus on combating transnational crime and drug smuggling and not immigration enforcement on the Mexican border, as Trump envisioned. (Los Angeles Times)

Day 454: This Russia thing.

1/ Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted to get Congressional approval before bombing Syria last week. Trump overruled him because he wanted his tweets to be supported by action, despite warnings that an overly aggressive strike could spark a larger dispute with Russia. A limited airstrike on three targets was the compromise. (New York Times)

2/ Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend for a top-secret visit to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and the North Korean leader. Pompeo was nominated as secretary of state shortly after the meeting. Trump is expected to meet with Kim by June. While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday, Trump said his administration has "had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea." (Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "the administration does not comment on the CIA director's travel." Hours later, Trump tweeted that "Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed." (Reuters)

4/ Two Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote against Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for secretary of state. Pompeo can still be confirmed by the full Senate without the committee's support. Republicans hold a 11-10 majority on the committee and Republican Rand Paul has already said he's also "no." (Reuters / CNN)

5/ Nikki Haley: "I don't get confused." The comment by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations comes in response to a White House official attributing her statement that Trump would impose sanctions on Russia to "momentary confusion." Larry Kudlow, the president's national economics adviser, said Haley "got ahead of the curve." Later, Kudlow called Haley to apologize, saying "she was certainly not confused." He added: "She was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn't told about it, so she was in a box." The White House sent out a document – titled "White House talking points" – to surrogates on Saturday letting them know that Trump had decided to take punitive action against Moscow. (New York Times / Politico / CNN)

  • Haley said her relationship with Trump was "perfect." (Reuters)

6/ Trump denied that he fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation, directly contradicting his own comments on Comey's dismissal. In May 2017, Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that his decision to fire Comey was "this Russia thing," which he called "a made up story" and "an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won." Today, Trump tweeted that "Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation," adding the requisite all-caps "NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!" (CNN / Washington Post / Axios)

7/ Trump dismissed the sketch of the person that Stormy Daniels claims threatened her years ago on Trump's behalf, calling the person a "nonexistent man" and said the sketch was a "total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!" (ABC News / New York Times)

8/ American Media Inc. let Karen McDougal out of her contract that kept her from talking about her affair with Trump. In August 2016 American Media, which owns the National Enquirer, purchased the rights to McDougal's story and spiked it in exchange for $150,000. David Pecker, American Media's chairman, is friends with Trump. (New York Times)

9/ Trump is still "apoplectic" about the FBI raids on Michael Cohen's hotel room, office and home, a source close to the president said. Trump's concerned that the FBI has everything, including everything he's told Cohen, and doesn't feel protected by the FBI "taint team" that's supposed to separate out information subject to attorney client-privilege. (CNN)

poll/ The race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke is "too close to call." 47% of Texas voters support Cruz while 43% back O'Rourke. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Barbara Bush died at the age of 92 after a series of recent hospitalizations. Bush had recently refused to seek any further medical treatment. (NBC News)

  2. The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up legislation to protect Robert Mueller despite opposition from Mitch McConnell. The legislation is on the agenda for a committee business meeting on Thursday, but an actual vote is expected to be delayed until next week. (The Hill)

  3. Puerto Rico hit with an island-wide blackout after an excavator accidentally downed a transmission line. Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers. (Associated Press)

  4. New York's attorney general is trying change a state law so he can bring criminal charges against aides Trump pardons. Eric Schneiderman wants to exempt New York's double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons. (New York Times)

  5. Mick Mulvaney said the Office of Management and Budget is opening a probe into Scott Pruitt's spending since he took over the EPA. The OMB will look into the $43,000 spent on a "secure phone booth" for Pruitt's office at EPA headquarters. (ABC News)

  6. A group of 131 representatives and 39 senators introduced a resolution calling for Scott Pruitt to resign for ethics lapses. The resolution states that the co-signers have "no confidence in the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and [are] calling for the immediate resignation of the Administrator." (The Hill / Reuters)

  7. Trump's trade representative Robert Lighthizer is spending nearly $1 million on new furniture. He blamed the Obama administration for the costs. (New York Post)

  8. Trump tweeted that sanctuary cities are where undocumented immigrants go for "breeding." (CNN)

  9. Bob Corker said Trump governs in a state of "constant chaos" and denounced his attacks on the FBI and the media. The Republican senator once described the White House as an "adult day-care center." (Washington Post)

  10. Madeleine Albright: Trump is "the least democratic president of modern history." The former secretary of state said the modern world provides a "petri dish" for fascism. (The Atlantic)

Day 453: Crimes of violence.

1/ The Supreme Court ruled that a law subjecting immigrants to deportation for some "crimes of violence" is unconstitutionally vague. Justice Neil Gorsuch – Trump's pick for the Supreme Court – joined with the court's liberal justices, providing the swing vote for the first time in a 5-4 ruling that invalidated the federal statute. (CNN / Politico / USA Today)

2/ The Senate will not take up legislation limiting Trump's ability to fire Robert Mueller. "I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor," Mitch McConnell said, "that's my responsibility as the majority leader and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate." McConnell's statement comes about a week after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said his panel would take up and vote on the measure during a meeting on April 26. A handful of House Republicans have also endorsed legislation that would protect the special counsel. (The Hill / Washington Post / Politico)

3/ Trump rejected a new round of sanctions that would have been imposed against Russia on Monday. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that "a decision will be made in the near future," and Trump has now decided to not move forward with the sanctions. She added that Trump "has been clear that he's going to be tough on Russia, but at the same time he'd still like to have a good relationship with them." (New York Times)

4/ Trump's National Economic Council chairman said Nikki Haley "got ahead" of herself in announcing new sanctions on Russia. Larry Kudlow insisted there was no confusion within the administration about the sanctions. Trump signed off on the sanctions package, but changed his mind following the airstrikes in Syria. "Russia sanctions were a part of the agreed-upon plan going into the strike and going into the weekend," said a senior administration official. "As recently as Saturday that was reconfirmed as part of the plan." (CNN / Politico)

5/ A broadband adviser chosen by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was arrested last week and charged with fraud for tricking investors into pouring more than $250 million into an Alaska-based fiber optic cable company. Elizabeth Pierce used forged contracts with other companies to guarantee investors hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue. Pierce stepped down from her role as head of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee in September of last year. (Wall Street Journal / The Verge)

6/ Fox News pledged "full support" of Sean Hannity after it was revealed that he had an "informal relationship" with Michael Cohen. In a statement, the network said it "was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday." (Reuters / CNN)

  • Sean Hannity has been represented by two other Trump-connected lawyers: Victoria Toensing and Jay Sekulow. The duo, acting as "Counsel for Sean Hannity," once sent a cease-and-desist letter to a radio station based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sekulow is Trump's personal attorney working full-time on the response to Robert Mueller's inquiry. He recently announced he was hiring Toensing to join him, but reversed course due to unspecified conflicts. (The Atlantic)

7/ The Trump campaign paid $66,000 to Keith Schiller's lawyer, Trump's former longtime bodyguard. Schiller's lawyers, Schertler & Onorato LLP, received a single payment in January, despite having left his White House job in September. Schiller testified to the House Intelligence Committee in November that someone made an offer to send five women to Trump's hotel room in Moscow during to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Schiller said he turned down the offer on Trump's behalf and that no women ever came, as far as he was aware. Federal election law allows the use of campaign money for legal fees, but only if the fees are related to a matter connected to the campaign. (NBC News)

8/ Stormy Daniels and her lawyer unveiled a forensic sketch of the man she said threatened her seven years ago to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. She is offering a $100,000 reward for information about the man she described as handsome and fit with sandy brown, slicked-back hair, about 5-foot-9 to 6 feet tall, and in his 30s or 40s. (USA Today / The Daily Beast)

9/ Trump has been advised not to back a candidate in the race to succeed outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump wanted to endorse House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but his advisers are concerned that an endorsement could complicate his future relationship with the next GOP leader. (ABC News)

10/ Scott Pruitt upgraded his official car to a larger, customized SUV with bullet-resistant seat covers. The first year's lease of the Chevy Suburban cost $10,200. (Washington Post)

11/ Trump said the U.S. has had "direct talks" with North Korea at "extremely high levels," adding that the U.S. was reviewing five locations for a one-on-one with Kim Jong Un. Trump is tentatively scheduled to meet Kim in early June. (Politico / Washington Post)

12/ North and South Korea are reportedly set to announce an official end to their 68-year war. Pyongyang and Seoul have technically been at war since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended with a truce – and not a peace treaty. While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, Trump said the two Koreas "have my blessing to discuss the end of the war." (CNBC / Associated Press)

poll/ Roughly 7 in 10 Americans support tougher U.S. sanctions on Russia, while nearly half say Trump has done "too little" to address Russia's alleged violations of international law. Meanwhile, 52% say Trump should invite Putin to the White House in order to help improve U.S.-Russia relations; 42% oppose the invitation because they feel it would give Putin legitimacy. (Washington Post-ABC News poll)

poll/ 32% of all Americans have a favorable view of Robert Mueller. 30% view him unfavorably and 38% say they don't know enough to have an opinion. Among Democrats, Mueller's favorability is at 56%, while 49% of Republicans have an unfavorable impression of the special counsel. (NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll)


Notables.

  1. Ryan Zinke refers to himself as a geologist, even though he has never held a job as a geologist. The Interior Secretary has used the credential to justify everything from shrinking the Bears Ears national monument to making decisions regarding coal revenue, seismic activity, climate change, and endangered species, as well as fracking and drilling. (CNN)

  2. GOP Congressman Charlie Dent will resign and leave office in May. Dent initially announced his resignation last year and said he planned to stay on until the end of his term, but has now decided, "after discussions with my family and careful reflection," that he will instead leave office next month. (The Hill)

  3. Sandy Hook parents are suing Alex Jones for defamation. The right-wing conspiracy theorist who operates Infowars has repeatedly claimed that the parents of the 20 dead children are "crisis actors" and that the shooting was "completely fake" and a "giant hoax" perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment. The parents are seeking at least $1 million in damages. (New York Times)

  4. The IRS Direct Pay system went down on tax day and is still down. Direct Pay is the service that allows taxpayers to make their payments online. "This service is currently unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience," the website reads. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said online tax filers will get extension after the website outage. (USA Today / Fortune)

  5. Trump requested an extension to file his 2017 taxes, as so "many Americans with complex returns" do, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Trumps returns will be filed by the Oct. 15 extension deadline. (New York Times)

Day 452: Morally unfit.

1/ James Comey called Trump "morally unfit to be president" and likened "the loyalty oaths" to a mob boss at "the dominant center of everything" who is doing "tremendous damage" to institutional and cultural norms. In his Sunday interview with George Stephanopoulos, Comey said that it is "possible, but I don't know" if Russia has compromising information on Trump. (ABC News / Reuters)

  • Annotated excerpts from James Comey's "20/20" interview. (New York Times)

  • 📚 Get Comey's book: "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" (Amazon)

2/ Trump tweeted that Comey is a "not smart," "self serving" liar, who deserves jail for being the "WORST FBI Director in history, by far." The tweets came hours before Comey's interview aired. Trump also insisted that Comey's memos are "FAKE!" while doubling down on calling the former FBI director a "Slimeball!" Trump also charged that the only reason Comey reopened the Clinton email investigation in the final days of the 2016 election was because he wanted a job in her administration. Trump added: "I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty." (Washington Post)

3/ Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Comey, accusing the former FBI director of lying to Congress and having "committed many crimes!" Trump did not specify what crimes he believed Comey and others have committed. (New York Times)

  • Obama's ethics lawyer believes Comey could sue Trump for libel and win. (The Hill)

4/ A federal judge rejected an attempt by Trump and Michael Cohen to block prosecutors from reviewing the materials seized in the FBI raids last week on Cohen's office, home, hotel room, and safe deposit box. Trump had asked a federal judge to block the Justice Department from viewing evidence, arguing that some of the evidence seized should first be reviewed by Trump, because it may be covered by attorney-client privilege. (New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

5/ Michael Cohen also represents Sean Hannity, one of Trump's outspoken advocates on cable TV. The revelation comes as part of a motion for a temporary restraining order to stop federal investigators from reviewing materials seized last week. The judge ordered Cohen to attend and provide information about his clients as she weighs the emergency action. Cohen's attorneys acknowledged that he represented Trump and Elliott Broidy in legal matters, but avoided naming the third client. Under pressure from the judge, Cohen's attorney said that the Fox News host was the third client. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / CNBC / NBC News)

  • Sean Hannity responds: "Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees." (Talking Points Memo)

  • Six times Sean Hannity defended Michael Cohen on Fox News. (Politico)

  • How Fox News reacted after Sean Hannity was revealed as Michael Cohen's mystery client. (Slate)

6/ Trump wants the power to hire and fire all "officers of the United States" who "exercise significant authority" under the law. Trump's solicitor general, Noel Francisco, intervened in a minor SEC case to urge the Supreme Court to clarify the president's constitutional "power to oversee executive officers through removal." The move comes as Trump has repeatedly claimed that he has the power to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Francisco could also be in line to oversee the Mueller probe if Rod Rosenstein is fired. (Los Angeles Times)

7/ Paul Ryan: "I don't think it's necessary" to pass a bill to protect Robert Mueller from being fired by Trump. "I don't think he's going to fire Mueller." Hundreds of former Justice Department employees, meanwhile, are urging Congress to "swiftly and forcefully respond" should Trump fire Mueller. (NBC News / Washington Post)

8/ Michael Cohen used the same Delaware LLC to handle the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model who alleged Elliott Broidy impregnated her. Federal prosecutors are examining money flowing in and out of Essential Consultants as part of a broad investigation into Cohen's activities to silence women with allegations against Trump or those near him. Separately, Cohen also killed a 2013 Us Weekly story that would have reported about Donald Trump Jr. having an affair with one of the singers in the group Dumblonde. (Wall Street Journal)

9/ Trump's 2020 reelection campaign has spent about 22% of its funds raised on legal fees related to the ongoing special counsel investigation and a legal challenge by Stormy Daniels. The campaign has also spent about $125,000 at Trump businesses, including Trump International Hotel, Trump restaurants, and Trump Tower. (Washington Post / BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 56% of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance, versus 40% who approve. Those who strongly disapprove outnumber those who strongly approve by nearly 2-1. (ABC News)

poll/ 47% of voters want a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared to 40% who prefer a GOP-controlled Congress – down from the Democrats' 10-point edge in March. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump tried to block Pence's national security adviser appointment. After Trump learned that Pence was bringing on Nikki Haley's deputy, Jon Lerner, Trump told Kelly to get rid of Lerner. (Axios)

  2. Jon Lerner stepped down two days after being named Pence's new national security aide. Trump was told – in error – that Lerner was a "Never Trumper," which caused him to boil over. Lerner offered to withdraw "to minimize the amount of conflict and internal drama." (Reuters)

  3. The Pentagon said there has been a "2,000% increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours," following the airstrikes against Syria on Friday night. (Axios)

  4. The Trump administration walked back Nikki Haley's announcement that the U.S. Treasury plans to issue additional sanctions on Russia following the chemical weapons attack in Syria last week. "We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. (The Hill)

  5. Trump was "furious" that his administration was being portrayed in the media for taking the toughest stance on Russia following the announcement that the U.S. planned to expel 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies. Trump believed that France and Germany would match the United States' response. Instead, they each expelled four Russian officials. (Washington Post)

  6. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke invited a self-professed "birther" on his radio show in 2013 and raised questions about then-President Obama's college records. (CNN)

  7. Scott Pruitt's $43,000 secure "privacy booth" violated spending laws, the Government Accountability Office said. Pruitt told a congressional committee he needed the booth to make secure calls to the White House and discuss classified information, but he was unable to tell the lawmakers how often he would use it. (ABC News / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

Day 450: Mission accomplished.

Welcome to a rare Saturday edition of WTF Just Happened Today.


1/ The U.S., France, and Britain launched airstrikes targeting three Syrian chemical weapons facilities as Trump attempted to punish Bashar al-Assad for a chemical attack near Damascus last weekend that killed more than 40 people. The strikes targeted a scientific research center, a chemical weapons storage facility, and a command post. "We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents," Trump said from the White House, adding that the U.S. and its allies had "marshaled their righteous power." Putin called the airstrikes an "act of aggression against a sovereign state" and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations' Security Council. (New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump sought advice on Syria from the lawyers defending him in the ongoing Russia investigation. (Wall Street Journal)

2/ Nikki Haley: Trump is "locked and loaded" to strike again if Syria uses chemical weapons again. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations' comment came during an emergency Security Council meeting called by Russia. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump declared "mission accomplished" following the airstrikes on three Syria targets, drawing comparisons to George W. Bush's optimism about the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Trump added: It "could not have had a better result." (CNN / Bloomberg)

4/ Russian military claimed that Syrian air defenses shot down 71 of the 103 missiles fired by the US and its allies. The Pentagon denied the claim. (The Guardian)

5/ 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/ A former Russian spy worked on the Moscow Trump tower deal during the 2016 presidential campaign. The former agent, who had served in the GRU, negotiated for financing for a Trump-branded tower in Moscow from a Russian state-owned bank that was under US sanctions at the time. The former Russian spy also passed intelligence to the US on key national security matters, including al-Qaeda's weapons caches and North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons. (BuzzFeed News)

7/ The FBI seized recordings of conversations between Michael Cohen and the lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Cohen recorded some calls he had with Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both Daniels and McDougal. (CNN)

Day 449: Slime ball.

1/ Rod Rosenstein is prepared to be fired by Trump, telling confidants he has done his job with integrity and repeating the phrase "Here I stand." In recent private conversations, Rosenstein said history will prove he did the right thing by firing James Comey in May 2017, adding that Americans don't have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey's dismissal. If Rosenstein is fired, the next in line to oversee Mueller's probe is Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Trump, however, could choose to replace Rosenstein with anyone who has been confirmed by the Senate. (NBC News)

🎁 GIVEAWAY: Win a set of Pee Tape and Robert Mueller III Prayer candles.

  • Rosenstein has consulted with a career ethics adviser at the Justice Department throughout the Russia probe on whether he needs to recuse himself from the investigation. He's followed their advice, which legal experts say legitimizes his decision to stay on. (CNN)

2/ James Comey called Trump an "unethical" man "untethered to truth and institutional values" in his new book, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership." Comey describes Trump and his advisers as being unconcerned with whether Russia meddled in the election, but rather "debat[ing] how to position these findings for maximum political advantage." Trump, as president-elect, disputed the Steele dossier allegations that he watched sex workers urinate on each other. Comey writes that Trump insisted that "there's no way I would let people pee on each other around me" because he is a self-professed germaphobe. "I don't know," Comey told ABC News, if Trump "was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013." (NBC News / New York Times / CNN)

  • New York Times Book Review: James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It’s Very Persuasive. (New York Times)

  • 📚 Get your copy of "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership."

3/ Trump tweets that Comey is a "weak and untruthful slime ball" who deserved to be fired "for the terrible job he did." He added that Comey is a "proven LEAKER and LIAR" and that "it was my great honor to fire James Comey!" The pair of tweets are Trump's first remarks since advance copies of "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership" surfaced. ABC's "20/20" will air an interview with Comey on Sunday morning, while Fox News will air a special called "The Trial of James Comey" on Sunday night. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)

4/ The Republican National Committee launched a "Lyin' Comey" website aimed at discrediting the former FBI chief. The GOP plans to fact check James Comey's book and use "rapid response" to highlight any "misstatements" or "contradictions" in it. (Fox News)

5/ Trump's allies are worried that the FBI may have seized recordings of conversations between Michael Cohen and his associates. "We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes," said one Trump adviser. "Now we are wondering, who did he tape?" Cohen is known to record some of his conversations and store them as digital files. On Monday, FBI agents seized Cohen’s computers and phones. (Washington Post)

6/ Trump's advisers believe the investigation into Michael Cohen poses a greater and more imminent threat to his presidency than Robert Mueller's investigation. Cohen and Trump, through their lawyers, argue that the seized records were protected by attorney-client privilege. Trump called Cohen to "check in" as lawyers for the two men went to court to block the Justice Department from reading the seized documents. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, said she wasn't sure if Cohen was still Trump's personal attorney. (New York Times / Bloomberg)

7/ Cohen and a lawyer for Trump requested an emergency temporary restraining order to prevent prosecutors from looking at the materials seized in the FBI raids on Cohen's office, home, and hotel room earlier this week. Cohen and the lawyer argued that the president has "an acute interest in this matter" because some of the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege. (CNBC / Reuters / NBC News)

8/ Cohen has been "under criminal investigation" for months in New York for his business dealings, federal prosecutors said in court documents. The revelation came as Cohen and Trump sought a court order barring federal prosecutors from accessing the records they took during raids on Cohen's home and office Monday morning. (ABC News / NPR / CNN)

  • FBI agents who raided Cohen's office sought information about taxi owners who had financial dealings with Trump's personal attorney. The warrant specifically identified two Ukrainian immigrants who own a large taxi operation in Chicago. Cohen repeatedly loaned money to Semyon and Yasya Shatayner within the past 10 years. (CNN)

9/ Cohen negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser. Cohen arranged the payments to the woman on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee with ties to Trump. In a statement, Broidy acknowledged that he "had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate" who got pregnant. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

10/ Elliott Broidy resigned as Republican National Committee deputy finance chair following reports that Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, had negotiated a $1.6 million payment on his behalf to a Playboy Playmate who said that Broidy had impregnated her. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

11/ The Justice Department inspector general found that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe "lacked candor" on four occasions when discussing the alleged improper authorization of information to a newspaper reporter and then misleading investigators about it. Trump tweeted that the report "is a total disaster. He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey - McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!" McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just hours before his retirement and the FBI officially filled McCabe's roll with Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich today. (CNN / New York Times / Politico)

  • McCabe's lawyer may file a defamation lawsuit against Trump and his "colleagues" in response to a Trump tweet that claimed McCabe had "LIED! LIED! LIED." (ABC News)

  • [PDF] Inspector General Report of allegations relating to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. (New York Times)

poll/ 69% of Americans support Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. 64% support Mueller investigating Trump's business activities, and 58% support looking at allegations that Trump’s associates paid hush money to women who say they had affairs with him. (ABC News)

poll/ 48% to 32% see Comey as more believable than Trump. 47% disapprove of Trump's decision to fire Comey, compared to 44% who approve. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump pardoned Scooter Libby for lying to investigators probing the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. Libby served as the former chief of staff for Dick Cheney during the George W. Bush administration. Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence while leaving the 2007 conviction intact. (ABC News / Bloomberg)

  2. A Health and Human Services appointee shared an image in 2017 that said "our forefathers would have hung" Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason. (CNN)

  3. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rejected a request from a dozen senators to investigate Sinclair Broadcast Group for "distorting news" coverage, saying an investigation would conflict with the First Amendment and freedom of the press. Sinclair forced anchors to read a scripted promo warning of "fake news" and media bias. (The Hill)

  4. The U.S. accused Syrian of using banned chemical arms at least 50 times since Syria’s civil war began seven years ago. (New York Times)

  5. Trump has been pushing for an attack on Syria that would punish the Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, is warning that retaliation must be balanced against the threat of a wider war in order to "keep this from escalating." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

Day 448: Retroactive privilege.

1/ Steve Bannon is working with White House aides and Congressional allies on a plan to undermine Robert Mueller's probe. The plan involves firing Rod Rosenstein, refusing to cooperate with Mueller's team, and having Trump assert executive privilege "retroactively" in order to argue that Mueller's interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void. Bannon also said "Ty Cobb should be fired immediately." Trump, however, tweeted that he has "full confidence in Ty Cobb." (Washington Post)

2/ A Trump interview with Robert Mueller is now unlikely to take place following Monday's FBI raid of Michael Cohen's home, office, and hotel room, which has "significantly complicated" negotiations for a presidential interview, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Trump's lawyers wanted a potential interview to last only a few hours, as well as force Mueller to release his report within three or four months. An interview was considered one of the last steps Mueller needed before closing the obstruction of justice portion of his Russia investigation. (NBC News)

3/ Trump asked James Comey to investigate "the golden showers thing" and "prove it was a lie" in January 2017 so he could "lift the cloud" because it upset Melania Trump. The infamous dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, alleges that Trump watched sex workers urinate on themselves in the same Moscow suite that the Obamas had stayed in previously "as a way of soiling the bed." Comey said Trump was obsessed with the sex workers portion of the dossier, asking about it at least four times. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump's allies plan to discredit James Comey with digital advertising branding him "Lyin' Comey" in an effort to undermine the credibility of the former FBI director ahead of his book launch next week. Republican talking points attack Comey's credibility, conduct, and point out contradictions. (CNN)

  • Trump tweet-promoted Sean Hannity's segment last night, in which Hannity tried to connect the "obvious Deep State crime families trying to take down the president" to the Clinton "family," the Comey "family" and the Mueller "family." (Washington Post)

5/ The White House is preparing talking points designed to undermine Rod Rosenstein's credibility and cast the deputy attorney general as too conflicted to fairly oversee the Russia investigation. The White House is hoping that Trump's defenders will paint Rosenstein and Comey as close colleagues and argue that Rosenstein is approving an expanding investigation as "payback for the President firing one of his best friends." (CNN)

6/ Trump tweeted that an attack on Syria "could be very soon or not soon at all!" Trump, trying to clarify his tweet yesterday that U.S. missiles "will be coming," claimed that he "never said when an attack on Syria would take place." In response, Syria moved its military aircraft to the Russian base near Latakia yesterday. (New York Times / Washington Post)

7/ During his Secretary of State confirmation hearing, CIA Director Pompeo told senators that he has been interviewed by Robert Mueller. He declined to answer questions about his testimony to Mueller — or conversations with Trump — saying that the investigation is ongoing. (The Hill / Axios)

  • Pompeo failed to disclose last year that he owned a business that imported equipment from a company owned by the Chinese government. Pompeo's new questionnaire submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his Secretary of State nomination is not publicly available. (McClatchy DC)

8/ A former doorman was paid $30,000 in late 2015 to sign over the rights to a story about a rumor that Trump fathered a child with an employee in the 1980s at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, paid Dino Sajudin to give up exclusive rights to the rumor – and then never published an article about it – five months after Trump had launched his Presidential campaign. (The New Yorker / CNBC / Washington Post / CNN)

9/ The company that owns the National Enquirer also paid Karen McDougal $150,000 for a story it never published. The payout to McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, came eight months after American Media Inc. paid $30,000 to Trump's former doorman for his story. American Media Inc. is facing a Federal Election Commission complaint claiming that the $150,000 payment represented an illegal campaign contribution. (Associated Press / New York Times)

10/ Stormy Daniels's attorney said Michael Cohen is threatening to plead the Fifth Amendment if an upcoming motion to stay a defamation suit from Daniels is not successful. "We've learned within the last two hours that Michael Cohen will be filing a motion, an emergency motion to stay, or temporarily stop our case," Michael Avenatti said. "And the grounds for that motion are going to be that it is his intention to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination if our case goes forward." (The Hill)

poll/ 56% of Americans believe that the National Enquirer paid for the exclusive rights to stories that may be damaging to Trump in order to keep them from being published. 39% said the allegation was "probably true," while 17% said it was "definitely true." (CNN)

poll/ 51% of Americans support a national health care plan, while 43% oppose it. (Washington Post)

poll/ Obama is more admired than Trump in every country except one: Russia. Obama ranked first in 19 of 35 countries, including the U.S. Trump, meanwhile, ranked 2nd in the U.S. and 11th in Russia. Obama ranked 12th. (YouGov)


Notables.

  1. A Pennsylvania school district armed teachers with wooden, 16-inch baseball bats in the event of an active shooter situation. School Superintendent William Hall said the bats are a "last resort" for teachers who want to fight back. (NBC News)

  2. Jared and Ivanka are heading to Lima, Peru with Pence for the Summit of the Americas. Trump originally planned to attend the summit but canceled to stay in Washington and monitor the situation in Syria. (Politico)

  3. Federal judges indicated they have a problem with Mick Mulvaney's dual role as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because he also heads the White House Office of Management and Budget. (Los Angeles Times)

  4. Trump's federal judicial nominee refused to say whether she agreed with Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated U.S. public schools. Wendy Vitter also maintained she could "put aside" her "pro-life" advocacy, and as a judge enforce the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights. (HuffPost / NPR)

  5. Trump wants to roll back billions in spending from the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill he signed into law last month. Republicans who helped craft the legislation are skeptical. (Politico)

  6. Trump asked officials to look at rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multination trade agreement he pulled the U.S. out of shortly after taking office. (Washington Post)

  7. A fired EPA staffer gave congressional investigators a detailed list of what he describes as Scott Pruitt's wasteful spending and unethical behavior. Democrats in turn asked Pruitt to provide documents regarding allegations made by Kevin Chmielewski about his "unethical and potentially illegal" behavior. (BuzzFeed News / ABC News / Washington Post)

Day 447: Get ready.

1/ Trump tweets that "smart" missiles "will be coming" toward Syria in response to a chemical attack, taunting Russia to "get ready." Russia's ambassador to Lebanon said any U.S. missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted. Trump also condemned Moscow's backing of Bashar al-Assad, saying: "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" In a pair of subsequent tweets, Trump said relations between the U.S. and Russia are "worse now than it has ever been" and the "Fake and Corrupt Russia Investigation," Democrats, and everybody that worked for Obama are to blame. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump's tweets broke national security policy, known as operations security. The objective is to not publicly announce information that can be used to jeopardize a mission. The Department of Defense lists "social network sites, tweets, text messages, blogs, videos, photos, GPS mapping, newsletters" as a few of the ways in which operations security can be compromised. (CNBC)

2/ Paul Ryan will not seek re-election in November, ending what will be a three-year run as the leader of House Republicans. Ryan will serve until the end of this Congress in January, which will mark 20 years in Congress for him. He said that he won't run for public office again. (Axios / Politico / New York Times)

3/ Trump is considering firing Rod Rosenstein following the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's office, in order to limit Robert Mueller's investigation through a new deputy attorney general. Rosenstein has been in charge of the Mueller probe since Jeff Sessions recused himself last year from all investigations involving the 2016 election. Trump is also weighing whether to fire Jeff Sessions and install a new attorney general. (CNN)

4/ Trump tried to fire Robert Mueller in December after incomplete news reports surfaced that subpoenas coming from Mueller's probe were targeting his business dealings with Deutsche Bank. To Trump, the subpoenas suggested that the investigation had expanded beyond his "red line." Trump backed down after his lawyers and advisers assured him that the reports were not accurate. (New York Times)

5/ Robert Mueller asked to subpoena 35 witnesses for Paul Manafort's trial, which is set to begin on July 10th. (Bloomberg)

6/ The FBI agents who searched Michael Cohen's office wanted all records related to the "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump bragged about being able to sexually assault women, including that he would "grab them by the pussy" whenever he wanted and that he would sometimes "just start kissing them." Federal prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank fraud, but are also looking at whether these efforts amounted to improper campaign donations to Trump. (New York Times)

  • Michael Cohen said the FBI was "extremely professional, courteous and respectful" during the raids on his home, office, and hotel. "I am unhappy to have my personal residence and office raided," Cohen said. "But I will tell you that members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion." (CNN)

7/ A bipartisan Senate bill designed to protect Robert Mueller's job is on track for an an April 19 vote in the Judiciary Committee. If the bill passes out of committee, the legislation would allow the special counsel to be fired only "for good cause" by a senior Justice Department official, with a reason given in writing, and it would provide recourse if Mueller is fired without good cause. The bill will also require that materials be saved from the pending investigation. Mitch McConnell said that he is not convinced that a Mueller protection bill merits floor time in the chamber. "I haven't seen a clear indication yet that we need to pass something to keep him from being removed," he said. (Reuters / The Hill / Politico)

8/ Rebekah Mercer asked Facebook for an independent investigation into Cambridge Analytica, data collection, and the 2016 election in an attempt to get the data platform's ban lifted. The meeting came four days after Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, and a day after Cambridge agreed to let Facebook audit the firm's servers. Facebook initially considered the independent investigation, but then declined. Robert Mercer invested $15 million in Cambridge Analytica, where his daughter Rebekah is a board member. The Mercer family were major donors to Trump's presidential campaign. (BuzzFeed News / New York Times)

  • Cambridge Analytica's acting CEO is stepping down. Julian Wheatland, the chairman of Cambridge Analytica's British affiliate, will take over. (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

9/ California's governor agreed to deploy 400 National Guard troops at Trump's request, but they won't used for "enforcing federal immigration laws." Gov. Jerry Brown said he would accept federal funding to add California National Guard troops to a program to "combat transnational crime," which targets gangs, human traffickers and firearm and drug smugglers. (San Jose Mercury News / KCRA)

poll/ 48% of voters support Trump's order to send National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, while 42% oppose and 9% have no opinion. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump ordered the Department of Justice to hire a former White House official who was fired for showing Devin Nunes classified documents. Ezra Cohen-Watnick will advise Jeff Sessions on national security matters. (Bloomberg)

  2. The US deputy national security adviser for strategy resigned. Nadia Schadlow is the third senior national security official to resign or be pushed out in the wake of national security adviser John Bolton's arrival to the White House. She will leave her position at the end of the month. (CNN)

  3. The NRA said it accepted contributions from about 23 Russians, or Americans living in Russia, since 2015. (NPR)

  4. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming that Trump's financial disclosures are insufficient because they blur the lines between his personal debts and those owed by the businesses he owns. The judge said that even if the forms are insufficient, there's nothing she can do about it because ethics law has no provision allowing the public to enforce it. (Politico)

  5. The Trump administration is considering a plan to allow states to require some food stamp recipients to undergo drug testing. Roughly 5% of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could be affected. (Associated Press)

  6. James Comey sat down for a five-hour interview with George Stephanopoulos. In the interivew, Comey compared Trump to a mob boss. Comey's book, "A Higher Loyalty," comes out next Tuesday. (Politico / Axios)

  7. Former House Speaker John Boehner will join the board of directors of a marijuana holdings corporation, nine years after he said he was "unalterably opposed" to legalization. (Bloomberg)

Day 446: "Why don't I just fire Mueller?"

1/ Michael Cohen is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and violations of campaign finance law. Two potential crimes – bank and wire fraud – suggest prosecutors believe Cohen may have misled bankers about his use of certain funds or improperly used banks to transfer funds. Among the documents taken in Monday's FBI raids on Cohen's office, home and hotel room were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to Stormy Daniels. (Washington Post)

  • Lou Dobbs urged Trump to fire Robert Mueller in response to the raid of Michael Cohen's offices. "This is now a man that has to be brought under control, it would seem to me," Dobbs said. "Frankly, I can't imagine ― because each of us has to come to terms with our own heart and conscience ― I would fire the SOB in three seconds if it were me." (HuffPost)

  • "Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens," Trump said. "But I think it's really a sad situation, when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him." (CNN / Politico)

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said "it would be suicide for the President to fire" Mueller. "I think the less the President says about this whole thing, the better off he will be. And I think Mueller is a person of stature and respected and I respect him. Just let the thing go forward." (CNN)

  • Trump "certainly believes" he has the power to fire Robert Mueller, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The White House's stance on firing Mueller has been rejected by many legal experts who say Trump does not have the power to fire the special counsel directly. Sanders later added that "we've been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision." (CNBC / The Hill)

  • The White House is "not sure" if Cohen still represents Trump. (The Guardian)

2/ Rod Rosenstein signed off on the FBI's decision to raid Cohen's office. Agents were looking, in part, for records about payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, as well as information related to the publisher of The National Enquirer's role in silencing one of the women. Rosenstein, a Republican prosecutor, was picked by Trump to serve as deputy attorney general. The interest in both Daniels and McDougal indicates that federal investigators are trying to determine whether any crimes were committed in the course of buying their silence. (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Federal prosecutors asked the Trump Organization for records related to the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen. The request came in connection with FBI raids on Cohen's office, hotel room, and home. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal authorities investigating the $130,000 hush-money payment Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen paid her just before the 2016 election. Daniels has said the money was paid in exchange for her keeping quiet about an affair with Trump. FBI agents raided and seized evidence related to Daniels from Cohen's office and residence on Monday. (CNBC)

5/ In a pair of morning tweets, Trump declared that the raids are "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!" and that "attorney–client privilege is dead!" Attorney-client privilege is intended to encourage open communications between lawyers and their clients, so that lawyers can provide legal advice. The privilege is not absolute and there are exceptions for communications made to further a crime. The FBI would have to demonstrate probable cause to a magistrate judge that evidence of a crime would be found in Cohen's offices, or in a hotel where he was living. "No question, a search warrant for a lawyer is an extraordinary act," Frank Montoya, a former senior FBI official, said. "Everyone involved in this process, including the judge who signed the warrant, understood the scrutiny that would follow its execution. As such, everyone in the process would have done their damnedest to make the warrant as bulletproof as possible." (Reuters / NBC News)

6/ Trump is "less inclined" to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller after the raid on Michael Cohen's office. One source said Trump is "understandably less trusting" of Mueller and his team. (ABC News)

7/ The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is recused from the Michael Cohen investigation. Geoffrey Berman is a Trump appointee with ties to Rudy Giuliani, who donated money to the 2016 Trump campaign. The recusal was approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. (ABC News)

  • Former US Attorney Preet Bharara: The FBI raids were done by officials who were all "handpicked" by Trump. "If the reporting is true, particularly the part about this being approved by the Southern District of New York Attorney's Office which I used to lead, are all people who are Republican, and all people who have basically been handpicked by Donald Trump." (CNN)

8/ Robert Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation to the Trump Organization in 2015 from Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk. The donation by the Ukrainian steel magnate was made in return for a 20-minute video appearance by Trump at a conference in Kiev, and is being investigated as part of Mueller's efforts to examine foreign money Trump and his associates received prior to the election. (New York Times)

9/ Mueller is using the Paul Manafort investigation to probe Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, search warrant documents reveal. Mueller is seeking information from Manafort about foreign political donations and the meeting between top Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives in Trump Tower, in addition to Manafort's interactions with a Russian real estate magnate and possible campaign finance violations. (CNN / Associated Press)

poll/ 25% of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of Trump's job performance. 37% of Americans under 30 who are eligible to vote said they will "definitely be voting" in the midterms, compared to 23% who said the same thing in 2014. And 69% said they want to see Democrats in control, compared with 28 percent who favor Republican control. (Harvard University's Institute of Politics)

poll/ 69% of voters, including 55% of Republicans, oppose Trump firing Mueller. 13% of voters said they support Trump firing Mueller. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Trump's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, resigned at the request of new National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bossert is the second national security official to leave the White House since Bolton began the job on Monday. Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, announced his resignation on Sunday. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  2. Mitch McConnell opened the door to a vote on cutting federal spending and a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Republicans would then need just 50 votes to rescind billions in spending under Senate rules. (Politico)

  3. Trump won't attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, this week as planned. He will, instead, stay in the U.S. and "oversee the American response to Syria." Pence will take Trump's place at the meetings. (Politico / New York Times)

  4. Mike Pompeo asked Hillary Clinton for guidance on how to prepare for the secretary of state confirmation process. Pompeo once called Clinton's response to the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, "morally reprehensible." (Politico)

  5. The chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group met with Trump at the White House to pitch a new broadcasting standard the company is heavily invested in, which would allow authorities to broadcast directly to any American's phone. During the 2016 campaign, David Smith told Trump: "We are here to deliver your message." (The Guardian)

  6. The Russian military has been jamming the GPS systems of U.S. military drones operating in Syria. The Defense Department did not say whether the jamming is causing drones to crash. (NBC News)

  7. The EPA's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, claimed responsibility for the pay raises given to two of Scott Pruitt's top aides. Jackson also said that the pay raises had been reversed. "Administrator Pruitt had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired," Jackson wrote in an email statement. (Bloomberg)

Day 445: Barbaric.

1/ The FBI raided Michael Cohen's office, home, and Manhattan hotel room seizing records related to Stormy Daniels and several other topics. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrants after receiving a referral from Robert Mueller. The search warrants were executed by the office of the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York and are "in part" related to Mueller's investigation. Trump characterized the FBI raid on his longtime personal attorney as a "disgraceful situation" that has reached a "new level of unfairness" and "an attack on our country in a true sense." (New York Times / Politico / Los Angeles Times / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Trump vowed to make "major decisions" in the next 24 to 48 hours about how to respond to a suspected chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens of people. Trump said there will be a "big price to pay" for the "atrocious," "horrible," and "barbaric act." Trump directly criticized Putin, Russia, and Iran for backing "Animal Assad" in a tweet. Later, Trump said "Everybody's going to pay a price. [Putin] will, everybody will." (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters)

3/ John Kelly threatened to quit on March 28 after he blew up at Trump during an Oval Office meeting – the same day Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. "I'm out of here, guys," Kelly said, and packed up some personal belongings. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attempted to calm Kelly down. (Axios / Washington Post)

  • "To hell with it": Trump increasingly weary of staff advice. (Associated Press)

4/ The federal government's top ethics officer asked the EPA to review Scott Pruitt's actions and take "appropriate actions to address any violations." In a letter from David Apol, the acting director and general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics, to Kevin Minoli, the EPA's top ethics official, Apol summarizes reports of Pruitt's conduct, including a rental agreement with a lobbyist whose husband's firm lobbies the EPA as well as EPA spending on Pruitt's travel and security. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / CNN)

5/ An internal EPA email contradicts Scott Pruitt's account that he "didn't know" about a controversial pay raise for an aide last month. In mid-March, the staffer, Sarah Greenwalt, emailed HR to confirm that her pay raise was being processed. According to an administration official who saw the email chain: Greenwalt "definitively stated that Pruitt approves and was supportive of her getting a raise." (The Atlantic)

6/ The U.S. budget deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020 – two years sooner than previously estimated. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts 2% less revenue and 1% more spending from 2018 to 2027. The Trump administration promised that tax cuts will lead to faster economic growth, which would offset deficit expansion. (Bloomberg / New York Times)

7/ White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow blamed threats of a trade war on China's "decades of misdeeds," saying "This president's got some backbone, others didn't and he's raising the issue in full public view, setting up a process that may include tariffs." (CNBC)

8/ Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook should have done more to prevent third-party apps from collecting users' data without their permission and for being "too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference" during the U.S. election. In written testimony, Zuckerberg said that "It's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well" and that Facebook "didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake." Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. The social network said it would form an independent commission of academic researchers to study social media's impact on elections. (Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin. The shift represents a 12-point swing from 2016. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. Trump's top national security spokesman will leave the White House. Michael Anton was one of the earliest and most forceful defenders of Trump's "America First" foreign policy. Anton will join Hillsdale College as a writer and lecturer. (Politico)

  2. Trump expects to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May or June, and expressed hope they'd reach a deal on "de-nuking" the Korean peninsula. (Bloomberg)

  3. Stormy Daniels' legal team plans to release a composite sketch of the man who Daniels says threatened her in 2011. "We're going to be releasing that tomorrow," said Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, "along with a significant reward, asking that the public come forward, asking to identify this individual." (CNN)

  4. Paul Manafort's lawyers filed a motion to suppress evidence found in an Alexandria, Va. storage unit. Manafort's defense team contends that the initial entry was illegal because the employee did not not have authority to let the FBI into the locker. (Politico)

  5. Manafort was denied bail, again, by a judge handling one of his criminal cases. The court, however, gave the former Trump campaign chairman a list of assets that could secure his release from house arrest. (Politico)

  6. One man died after a fire broke out at Trump Tower. One resident said the phones inside the building didn't work and that "Michael Cohen, who is Trump's lawyer was texting me and said 'are you in the building? I said 'yes.' He said 'you better get out ASAP!'" In the 1990s, Trump argued against retrofitting existing buildings with fire sprinklers. (ABC 7 / Washington Post)

  7. The Trump Organization asked the Panamanian president to intervene in a dispute over the control of a luxury hotel. Trump's business invoked a treaty between the two countries. (Associated Press)

  8. Senator Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting senator to have a baby while in office after giving birth to her daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Day 442: TOTALLY under siege.

1/ Trump is informally preparing for a potential interview with Robert Mueller. The preparation efforts were described as "in its infancy" and include going over potential topics with Trump that Mueller would likely ask in an interview. Trump has not formally agreed to sit for an interview with Mueller. (CNN)

2/ 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)

3/ Mueller's investigators questioned a Trump Organization associate about Michael Cohen's involvement in business deals in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. The special counsel's team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate this week with a subpoena seeking information about the efforts by Trump's personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee to expand the Trump brand abroad. (McClatchy DC)

  • Last year, Mueller seized three bank accounts a day before Paul Manafort was indicted. The previously unknown move was revealed in a list of warrants prosecutors submitted to a federal court in Washington after Manafort's defense team complained that the government was withholding information about how the warrants were obtained. The special counsel also obtained a search warrant for information on five phone numbers last month. (Politico)

4/ A Trump foreign policy adviser asked the FBI, State Department and the Intelligence Community Inspector General to review materials from the dark web that he thought were Hillary Clinton's deleted emails during the summer of 2016. Joseph Schmitz also took a memo outlining his claims to the House Intelligence Committee. The FBI interviewed him as a part of its ongoing criminal investigation into Clinton's emails. Officials at the State Department and the Inspector General also interviewed Schmitz, but they declined to review or accept the information. The material was never verified. (CNN)

5/ The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 17 Russian government officials, a state-owned weapons company, and seven oligarchs and 12 companies affiliated with them. "The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities." The sanctions were in response to the "totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly malign activities in the world," including interfering in the 2016 election and aggressions in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News)

6/ Trump proposed an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese products beyond the $50 billion in tariffs the White House announced earlier this week. China responded by announcing $50 billion in tariffs on American goods. Trump said the move was a direct response to "unfair retaliation" by China. (CNBC / New York Times / NBC News)

7/ Trump's top economic adviser learned about the president's latest tariffs last night. The White House announced the move at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said he found out about Trump's decision to impose an additional $100 billion in tariffs "last evening." (Politico)

8/ John Kelly urged Trump to remove Scott Pruitt last week following a series of negative reports about his spending habits and management style. Trump, however, is not ready to fire the EPA chief, who he sees him as an ally in his effort to roll back environmental protections. Trump tweeted that Pruitt is doing "a great job," and that he is "TOTALLY under siege." White House aides believe that Pruitt's position is untenable. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • The lobbyist couple that Pruitt rented the Capitol Hill condominium from changed the locks in order to push him out. Pruitt reportedly didn't leave when his lease end, causing Vicki and Steve Hart to kick him out. (Politico)

9/ 64 House Democrats called on Trump to fire Pruitt or force him to resign. "Scott Pruitt's unethical behavior, wasteful use of taxpayer money, and his efforts to undermine the EPA's core mission to protect our environment and public health demand an appropriate response: his resignation or his firing," they wrote. (The Hill / Politico / Axios)

poll/ 20% of Americans attended a political protest, rally or speech since 2016. Among rallygoers, 44% are 50 or older, and 36% earn more than $100,000 a year. (Washington Post)

poll/ 41% of voters approve of Trump's job performance – a record low in the Morning Consult poll. 54% disapprove of Trump's job performance. (Morning Consult)


Notables.

  1. The economy added 103,000 jobs in March while the unemployment rate stayed at 4.1%. The average hourly pay grew 2.7% from March 2017. March's figures were below analysts' expectations. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  2. Trump will again skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year. He'll send Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead. (Politico)

  3. Corey Lewandowski to House Intelligence Committee Democrats: I'm not answering your "f—ing" questions. Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, was the final witness in the yearlong House investigation, which resulted in two separate partisan reports. (CNN)

  4. Blake Farenthold abruptly resigned from the House of Representatives today following news that he used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment suit. He had promised to repay those funds but apparently has not done so. (Dallas Morning News / Texas Tribune / CNN)

  5. A group of "concerned" evangelical leaders plan to meet with Trump amid sex-scandal allegations. "We're very concerned" about the payout to Stormy Daniels to cover up a sexual encounter, said a leader of a faith-based ministry. (NPR)

Day 441: Can't speak to the future of __________.

1/ Trump denied knowing about the $130,000 payment his lawyer made to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to buy her silence. Trump said he didn't know where Michael Cohen got the money from and he declined to say if he ever set up a fund for Cohen to cover expenses like that. "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael," Trump said. Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted: "We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump's feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130k payment as stated on Air Force One. As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath." (USA Today / Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Trump considered replacing Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt as recently as this week. "He was 100% still trying to protect Pruitt because Pruitt is his fill-in for Sessions," a person familiar with Trump's thinking said. Trump remains frustrated that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation more than a year ago. (CNN)

3/ The EPA's top ethics official said he lacked key facts when he concluded that Scott Pruitt's lease with a lobbyist last year didn't violate federal gift rules. Kevin Minoli said Pruitt's lease was predicated on the use of a single room, but Pruitt's daughter stayed in the apartment's second bedroom while she was a White House intern. (Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ At least five EPA officials were reassigned, demoted, or requested new jobs after raising concerns about Scott Pruitt's spending and management of the agency. Officials were concerned about Pruitt's unusually large spending on office furniture, first-class travel, as well as requests for a bulletproof vehicle and a 20-person security detail. (New York Times)

  • Samantha Dravis, a top Pruitt aide, resigned to work in the private sector. Separately, Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, has grown frustrated enough with his boss that he has considered resigning. (CNN / Politico / New York Times)

5/ John Kelly to Scott Pruitt: The negative stories need to stop. Kelly called Pruitt a day after Trump told the EPA administrator that "we've got your back" to ask if there is anything else that "hasn't come out" yet. Kelly impressed upon Pruitt that, even though he has the full public confidence of Trump for now, the flow of stories need to stop. (The Daily Beast)

6/ A White House spokesman: "I can't speak to the future of Scott Pruitt." The comment by deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley came during a Fox News interview following revelations about Pruitt's travel expenses and ties to lobbyists, which has thrown his job security into question. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that "the president's not" OK with reports the agency chief rented a condo from a lobbyist for $50 a night. (Politico)

7/ A cooperating witness in Robert Mueller's investigation may have information linking the United Arab Emirates to Russia. George Nader has received at least partial immunity for his cooperation. Nader's international connections helped him arrange several meetings that have drawn the attention of the special counsel, including a meeting in the Seychelles between Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of a state-run Russian investment fund, and a Trump adviser days before Trump took office. (New York Times)

  • Paul Manafort authorized a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine's former president featuring "black ops" "placed" articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, as well as briefing writers at Breitbart to attack HillaryClinton when she was US secretary of state. (The Guardian)

8/ Robert Mercer spent $2 million to back a far-right organization that purchased anti-Muslim ads on Facebook and Google targeted at voters in swing states in 2016 who were most likely to be receptive to them. Secure America Now, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, promoted travel ads meant to stoke fears of Muslims. (OpenSecrets)

  • The Kremlin accused Facebook of censorship for taking down more than 200 pages and accounts that were run by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency — the "troll factory" that is under indictment for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. (NPR)

9/ Trump: Women are being "raped at levels that nobody's ever seen before" and "caravans" of immigrants are headed for the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing drugs and crime with them. Trump didn't provide evidence to support his claims. The comment came during a West Virginia event where Trump was supposed to speak about tax reform. (NBC News / Axios)

  • "You Hate America!": How the "Caravan" Story Exploded on the Right. (New York Times)

10/ Trump dropped his "boring" prepared remarks about the Republican tax bill. Instead, he repeated his claim that "millions" of people are voting illegally. "In many places like California, the same person votes many times," Trump said. "You’ve probably heard of that. They always like to say, 'Oh, that's like a conspiracy theory.' Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people. And it's very hard, because the state guards their records. They don't want to see it." (Politico / The Guardian)

11/ The National Guard troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border will not have physical contact with immigrants, and they will not be responsible for processing them at the border. Trump wants to send between 2,000 and 4,000 National Guard members to the US-Mexico border until a "large portion of the wall is built." (NBC News / Associated Press)

poll/ 41% of Americans approve of Trump's immigration policies, while 38% "strongly disapproved." (Reuters)

poll/ Democrat Phil Bredesen has a 10-point lead over Republican Marsha Blackburn in the race to replace retiring Senator Bob Corker. 45% of respondents would vote for Bredesen if the race were held today, compared to 35% for Blackburn. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The White House is considering a proposal to strip protections from hundreds of threatened species to give oil and agriculture companies more freedom to use land that was previously off-limits due to the presence of certain protected species. The proposal is called "Removal of Blanket Section 4(d) Rule," which is used by the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect animals and plants that are at risk of becoming endangered. (The Hill)

  2. A Las Vegas GOP political adviser has been accused of sexual enslavement and battery by his ex-fiancee. Benjamin Sparks' ex-fiancee turned over copies of emails, texts, and a signed contract to police, which lay out her duties as Sparks' "slave in training." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

  3. John Bolton met with White House attorneys about possible conflicts of interest shortly before Trump nominated him for national security advisor. The details are unclear, but experts believe the sticking points may be related to Bolton's possible future role with PACs and Super PACs. (CNBC)

  4. Rex Tillerson spent roughly $12 million on consultants to "redesign" the State Department. As many as 90 consultants worked on the project, with some charging more than $300 an hour. (Politico)

  5. A record-setting 309 women are running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives – the majority of them Democrats. That previous record of 298 was set in 2012. (Los Angeles Times)

Day 440: Short-term pain.

1/ Robert Mueller: Trump is not currently a criminal target in the Russia probe, but he remains under investigation. The special counsel also told Trump's lawyers during negotiations in early March regarding a possible Trump interview that he is preparing a report about Trump's actions and potential obstruction of justice. Mueller is required to report his conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has the authority to decide whether to release the information publicly. Mueller's investigators plan to report on their findings in stages, starting with the obstruction issue. Trump has privately expressed relief at his legal status and has repeatedly told allies that he is not a target of the probe and believes an interview will help him put the matter behind him. (Washington Post)

  • Analysis: Mueller told Trump he's not a criminal target in the Russia probe. That may not mean what you think. (Washington Post)

  • Analysis: Mueller's assurances that Trump is not a "target" don’t mean much. (Politico)

2/ Mueller's team has been questioning Russian oligarchs who travel to the US. Investigators want to know if wealthy Russians illegally funneled money directly or indirectly into Trump's presidential campaign and inauguration. Foreign nationals are prohibited under campaign finance laws from donating to US political campaigns. Mueller's team has stopped at least three Russian oligarchs for questioning in recent weeks. (CNN)

3/ H. R. McMaster denounced Russia and said "we have failed to impose sufficient costs" in his last public remarks as Trump's national security adviser. "Russia has used old and new forms of aggression to undermine our open societies and the foundations of international peace and stability," McMaster said. Hours earlier, Trump claimed that "nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have." (Washington Post)

4/ Trump is expected this week to impose additional sanctions against Russia, which are designed to target oligarchs with ties to Putin. The United States is expected to target individuals on a list of influential Russian political and business leaders that the Treasury Department released in January. (Washington Post)

5/ Roger Stone predicted "devastating" leaks about the Clinton Foundation the same day he sent an email saying he dined with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone's comments came during an appearance on InfoWars on August 4, 2016. Stone sent an email to Sam Nunberg on August 4, 2016, about a dinner with Assange the night before. He also mentioned in the email that he spoke with then-Republican nominee Donald Trump on August 3. (CNN)

6/ The White House said the U.S. will remain in Syria despite Trump's instructions to military leaders to withdraw all 2,000 troops. No date has been set. Yesterday, Trump told reporters that "I want to get out — I want to bring our troops back home." Meanwhile, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that "the United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated." (New York Times / Washington Post)

7/ Trump will deploy the National Guard to protect the southern U.S. border. Trump signed a proclamation directing the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to work with governors to send troops to the southwest border to assist the Border Patrol in combating illegal immigration. "It's time to act," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said. "Unfortunately – time and again – Congress has failed to act. Worse still, some members of Congress have continually opposed efforts to secure the border." (Politico / CBS News / Washington Post / New York Times)

8/ China proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods after the Trump administration proposed similar tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that the U.S. was "not in a trade war with China" and "that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S." Stocks fell early in the day after talks of a trade war escalated. The Dow erased a 510-point loss for a gain of 230. (New York Times / Reuters / CNN Money)

  • The White House said there could be some "short-term pain" if there's a trade war with China. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it would be worth it because "we're certainly going to have long-term success." (Politico)

  • A U.S.-China trade war will cost 190,000 American jobs, according to the chief economist at Moody's Analytics. (Axios)


Notables.

  1. A Defense Department appointee resigned after being outed for posting birther conspiracies and other controversial things about Obama on social media. Todd Johnson is a former Trump campaign state director in New Mexico and joined the Defense Department in 2017. His job was to provide logistical support for the secretary's events and appearances. (CNN)

  2. Trump and congressional Republicans want to cut billions of dollars from the bipartisan funding deal they passed last month. They are being pressured by conservatives who don't like the deal. (Politico)

  3. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner tried to bribe her with an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for agreeing to stop providing abortion services. The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women's health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. (CNN)

  4. At least 18 email domains managed by the Executive Office of the President are not in compliance with a Department of Homeland Security protocol. Of the 26 domains tested, only one had fully implemented the security protocol, which means someone could theoretically send misinformation from a presidential aide's account. (Axios)

  5. Seventeen states, Washington, D.C., and six cities are suing the Trump administration to stop it from asking people if they are citizens on the 2020 census. A citizenship question has not appeared on the decennial census form since 1950. (Reuters)

  6. Mark Zuckerberg: Most Facebook users should "assume" that their public profile has been scraped. "It is reasonable to expect," Zuckerberg said, that "someone has accessed your information in this way." (CNBC)

  7. Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users – roughly equivalent to a quarter of the population of the United States. "That was a huge mistake," Zuckerberg said. (New York Times)

Day 439: We've got your back.

1/ Rod Rosenstein authorized Robert Mueller to investigate Paul Manafort for allegedly "colluding with Russian government officials" in a classified August 2017 memo. Mueller was also given authority to probe Manafort's work for the Ukrainian government. The memo was disclosed in a court filing as Mueller's prosecutors seek to counter arguments by Manafort's lawyers that his indictment should be thrown out. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Alex van der Zwaan is the first person sentenced in Robert Mueller's investigation. The Dutch attorney, who admitted to lying to federal agents about his work in Ukraine with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, was sent to prison for 30 days and will pay a $20,000 fine. (Politico / Bloomberg / ABC News)

3/ Mueller's investigation is asking about a private consulting firm working with the United Arab Emirates. Mueller's team is asking about Wikistrat's business relationship with George Nader, a Lebanese-American who serves as a top adviser to U.A.E. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and was also close to the Trump administration last year. Wikistrat was contracted by the U.A.E. beginning in 2015 to conduct war game scenarios on Islamist political movements in Yemen. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ The EPA will revoke an Obama-era standard requiring cars to average more than 50 mpg by 2025. "The Obama Administration's determination was wrong," Scott Pruitt said, adding that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will establish a new standard that "allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford." The EPA will also "reexamine" a waiver that allows California to set stricter standards than those mandated by the federal government. (New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post / Los Angeles Times)

5/ Scott Pruitt bypassed the White House in order to give substantial pay raises to two of his closest aides. After the Presidential Personnel Office rejected Pruitt's raise request, the EPA administrator reappointed the aides using an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The move gave Pruitt total control over their contracts to grant the raises on his own. (The Atlantic)

6/ The EPA approved a pipeline-expansion project last year while Scott Pruitt was renting a $50-a-night condo linked to the company's lobbying firm. The expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline, an Enbridge Inc. project, would allow for hundreds of thousands more barrels of oil a day to flow through this pipeline to the U.S. from Canada's tar sands. At the time, Pruitt was living in the condo owned in part by Vicki Hart, the wife of J. Steven Hart, the chairman of Enbridge. (New York Times)

7/ The DC energy lobbyist and his wife helped fund Pruitt's campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general starting in 2010. J. Steven Hart, as well as two principals at his firm, donated to Pruitt's Oklahoma Strong Leadership PAC. The firm hosted a fundraiser for Pruitt's reelection effort in 2014. Steven and Vicki Hart rented a room in their Capitol Hill home to Pruitt for $50 per night last year. (The Daily Beast)

8/ Trump called Pruitt to say "we've got your back," urging him to "keep his head up" and "keep fighting." John Kelly reiterated those sentiments in a call to Pruitt Tuesday morning. According to a senior administration official, Kelly has considered firing Pruitt, but is waiting for the outcome of an EPA inspector general's report into Pruitt's travel expenses. (Associated Press / Politico)

9/ Trump wants to deploy the U.S. military to guard the southern border until he can build a wall and tighten immigration restrictions. "We are going to be guarding our border with our military," Trump said. "That's a big step." At a separate press conference, Trump said: "We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with [defense secretary] Gen Mattis and everybody and I think its something we have to do." (Bloomberg / The Guardian / New York Times)

poll/ Trump's support among women fell from 41% to 35% this month. Trump's support among men rose 3 points to 53%. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that it identified cellphone spying devices in Washington, DC last year. The unauthorized cell-site simulators are known as Stingrays and often used by foreign powers to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. (Associated Press)

  2. A senior leader in Russia's spy agency has agreed to plead partially guilty to sharing information with foreign intelligence. Dmitry Dokuchaev is wanted by the FBI and suspected to be linked to Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. (McClatchy DC)

  3. Trump's lawyers are asking a federal judge to order that an arbitrator resolve a dispute with Stormy Daniels over the alleged "hush money" agreement she signed just before the 2016 presidential election. (Politico)

  4. Stormy Daniels' lawyer wants the Treasury Department to release the "suspicious activity report" filed by the bank that Michael Cohen used to facilitate the $130,000 payment. (CNN)

  5. Beto O'Rourke raised more than $6.7 million in the first quarter of 2018 to take on Ted Cruz. The $6.7 million came from more than 141,000 contributions. O'Rourke has outraised Cruz for three of the last four reporting periods. (Texas Tribune)

  6. An Ohio State University study suggests that fake news stories dissuaded 4.2% of Obama voters from voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Hypothetical, fake news cost Clinton about 2.2 or 2.3 points apiece in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Clinton lost Michigan by 0.2 points and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 0.72 and 0.76 points, respectively. (Washington Post)

Day 438: DACA is dead.

1/ Trump invited Putin to the White House, according to Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov. "When our presidents spoke on the phone, Trump suggested having the meeting in Washington at the White House," Ushakov said. "This is quite an interesting, positive idea." During a March 20 phone call, Trump congratulated Putin for his reelection victory and discussed a possible meeting. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that "a number of potential venues, including the White House," were discussed during the phone call. (Washington Post / Bloomberg)

2/ Trump tweeted that "DACA is dead" and there would be no "NO MORE DACA DEAL" while pressing Congress to "immediately pass border legislation" because "our country is being stolen!" Trump claimed that "a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA," even though the program is only available to people who have lived in the U.S. since 2007. Trump ended DACA in September. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)

3/ Local news stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting were forced to recite the same script warning of "biased and false news" and "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories" that have been plaguing the country. Local news anchors have reportedly been uncomfortable with the "forced read." Sinclair is the country's largest broadcaster and owns or operates 193 TV stations. (New York Times / Deadspin)

4/ Trump tweet-defended Sinclair's "fake news" promotional campaign, which alleges "irresponsible, one-sided news stories" by mainstream media. "So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased," Trump tweeted. "Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke." (Politico / Washington Post)

5/ Trump patched in Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business host, via speakerphone to senior-level meetings on issues such as trade and tax policy during his first year in office. Trump would often interrupt officials so Dobbs could offer his opinion. (The Daily Beast)

6/ Trump demanded that the Washington Post register as a "lobbyist" for Amazon while accusing the online retailer of a "Post Office scam" in a series of weekend tweets. Trump continued his Twitter attack on Monday, saying that "only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon […] and this will be changed." The Post is owned by Bezos. However, the Post and Amazon are two separate entities. (CNBC / The Hill / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Shares of Amazon.com fell 6% after Trump attacked the online retailer over the pricing of its deliveries through the United States Postal Service and promised unspecified changes. (Reuters)

  • The Dow dropped more than 600 points and the Nasdaq fell about 3% as Trump attacked Amazon on Twitter. Trump accused Amazon of taking advantage of the US Postal Service, and he suggested that Amazon does not pay its fair share of taxes. (CNN Money)

7/ Trump's presidential campaign spent $158,498.41 on office supplies at Amazon in 2015 and 2016. The Trump for President committee continued to use Amazon after the election, spending more than $2,000 in 2017. (CBS News)

poll/ 48% of Americans overall trust CNN as a source of information more than Trump. In addition, 45% trust MSNBC more than Trump while 30% trust Fox News over Trump. Republicans, however, trust Trump as a source more than either CNN (12% versus 75% for Trump) or MSNBC (11% versus 72% for Trump). Republicans are also more likely to trust Trump than Fox News (35% versus 21%). (Monmouth University)


Notables.

  1. China will impose tariffs on 128 U.S. goods in response to Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum. The new Chinese tariffs will affect more than $3 billion in U.S. exports to China, including a 15% tariff on American fruit and nuts and a 25% tariff on pork, recycled aluminum, and more. (Politico)

  2. A third woman has sued to nullify a Trump-related non-disclosure agreement, which prohibits disparagement and disclosure of information about Trump, his company and family members. Jessica Denson claims she was harassed by a superior while working for the campaign. (Bloomberg)

  3. Scott Pruitt's daughter also stayed in the Capitol Hill condo where Pruitt rented a bedroom from a lobbyist. Ethics officials at the EPA signed off on the arrangement, which allowed Pruitt to pay roughly $2,150 less than other tenants would have paid during the same five-and-a-half-month stay. (CBS News)

  4. Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he didn't resign his position, as the White House previously claimed. Shulkin said he was never asked to submit a letter of resignation. (Politico)

  5. Trump called the FBI and Justice Department "an embarrassment to our country!" in a tweet. House Republicans recently subpoenaed the Justice Department for its records relating to the probe of Hillary Clinton's private email server. (Politico)

  6. A new book claims that Kellyanne Conway is the "number one leaker" in Trump's White House, and that she leaks more information to the press than any other individual. (CNN)

  7. Robert Mueller's team has been asking about Roger Stone's 2016 claim that he met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone wrote in a August 2016 email that "I dined with Julian Assange last night," which Mueller's team has been asking about during grand jury testimony. (Wall Street Journal)

  8. Chris Christie is worried that Trump won't be able to stop himself from committing perjury if he sits down with Robert Mueller. "He's a salesman. And salesmen, at times, tend to be hyperbolic. […] That's okay when you're on the campaign hustle. […] It is not okay when you're sitting talking to federal agents because, you know, 18 USC 1001 is false statements to federal agents. That's a crime. That can send you to jail." (Washington Post)

Day 435: Climate of change.

1/ Scott Pruitt's lease of a D.C. apartment cost him $50 a night but only when he slept there. Vicki Hart, the healthcare lobbyist who co-owns the building the apartment is in, is the wife of J. Steven Hart, an energy industry lobbyist. The EPA administrator worked directly with Hart to set up the $50-a-night rental room in a prime Capitol Hill building. The arrangement required him to pay rent for just a single bedroom, even though the other bedrooms in the unit were unoccupied. Hart's firm represents clients in the industries that are regulated by the EPA. (Bloomberg / ABC News)

2/ Pruitt's 24-hour security in Washington extended to personal trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl game, as well as trips home to Tulsa, Oklahoma. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy recently made Pruitt turn over all of his travel records for his first year. The EPA's inspector general is also investigating Pruitt's 2017 travel. (CNN)

  • Scott Pruitt's protective detail broke down the door at the Capitol Hill condo where he was living last year, believing he was unconscious and unresponsive and needed rescue. The incident occurred in the late afternoon on March 29, 2017. The EPA agreed to reimburse the condo owner for the damage to the door. (ABC News)

3/ The EPA is expected to roll back greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for automobiles. Pruitt and the Trump administration plan to frame the initiative as eliminating a regulatory burden on automakers in order to make more affordable trucks, vans and SUVs available for buyers. (New York Times)

4/ The White House office responsible for recruiting and vetting political appointees is inexperienced and understaffed, with less than a third of the staffing than in previous administrations. The Presidential Personnel Office is led by a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and bouncing checks, and a lance corporal in the Marine Corps reserves with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking. On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to surround himself with "only with the best and most serious people." (Washington Post)

5/ A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit seeking to preserve DACA can continue, citing Trump's "racially charged language." The order, by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, rejected a motion to dismiss the case, saying that Trump's "racial slurs" and "epithets" as a candidate and as president are enough to warrant a "plausible inference" that the decision to end DACA would be a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. (New York Times)

6/ Trump told White House aides not to publicly discuss a plan to provide new U.S. weapons to Ukraine to help the country fight back against Russian-backed separatists. Officials said Trump was concerned that doing so might agitate Putin. "He doesn't want us to bring it up," said one White House official. "It is not something he wants to talk about." (NBC News)

7/ Russia's ambassador to the U.S. can't remember a period of worse relations between Washington and Moscow. Anatoly Antonov also said it's "impossible to imagine" that the Kremlin was responsible for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, adding that "there is great mistrust between the United States and Russia" at present. (NBC News)

8/ The FBI detained Ted Malloch and issued him a subpoena to testify before Robert Mueller about potential collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russian government. FBI asked Malloch about his relationship with Roger Stone and if he had ever visited the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resides. Malloch is reportedly close to Trump, Steve Bannon, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, and Stone. (The Guardian / NBC News)

poll/ 60% of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 describe Trump as "mentally unfit," 62% call him "generally dishonest," and 63% say he "is a racist." 33% approve of Trump's job performance – 9 points lower than all adults. (Associated Press)

poll/ 57% of Americans say they are upset enough about an issue that they would carry a protest sign for a day. Among Democrats, 69% feel passionate enough about an issue to carry a protest sign, compared to 50% of Republicans and 43% of independents. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Czech officials have extradited a Russian hacker to the U.S. to face charges that he hacked into LinkedIn, Dropbox, and other American companies. Yevgeniy Nikulin, who denies that he is a hacker, was arrested by Czech officials in Prague in cooperation with the FBI in October 2016. (Associated Press)

  2. Trump wants the U.S. to end its military presence in Syria "very soon." The comment comes hours after the Pentagon highlighted the need for US troops to remain in the country for the immediate future. (Politico / CNN)

  3. The Trump administration will require nearly all visa applicants to submit five years of social media history. The move will affect nearly 15 million would-be immigrants to the U.S. (CNN)

  4. Congress is investigating an August 2016 flight from Moscow to New Jersey in connection with a meeting between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik. The jet, which is linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties with the Kremlin, landed in the U.S. shortly before Manafort and Kilimnik met in Manhattan. Kilimnik is the unnamed person with "ties to Russian intelligence" in Robert Mueller's indictment of Rick Gates. (Vice News)

  5. More than 10,000 people have donated more than $460,000 to Andrew McCabe's legal defense fund. The original goal was $150,000. (ABC News)

Day 434: Freewheeling.

1/ Robert Mueller's team pushed Rick Gates last year to help them connect the Trump campaign to the Russians. Mueller's team plans to use information from Gates to tie Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, directly to a Russian intelligence agency. As part of Gates' agreement to cooperate with the special counsel last month, he earned a reduced potential sentence and had several charges against him dropped. (CNN)

2/ Mueller's team has also been questioning witnesses about an event attended by both Jeff Sessions and Sergei Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention. The team also has been asking if Sessions had private discussions with the now former Russian Ambassador to the United States on the sidelines of a Trump campaign speech at the Washington Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. (Reuters)

3/ Trump's outside advisers told him he doesn't need a chief of staff or a communications director. While John Kelly has tried to bring order to the policymaking process, Trump has grown frustrated by the long-established West Wing management structure, because it doesn't fit his freewheeling style. As a result, Kelly has been absent from several key decisions lately. Since Hope Hicks' departure, Trump has been open to rethinking the traditional communications director role. He'd like Kellyanne Conway to assume the role. (CNN / Bloomberg)

4/ EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt lived in a condo tied to an energy industry lobbyist. The townhouse near the U.S. Capitol is co-owned by J. Steven Hart, who wouldn't say how much Pruitt paid to live there. Hart's firm has lobbied on "issues related to the export of liquefied natural gas." During a December 2017 trip to Morocco, Pruitt pitched "the potential benefit of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports on Morocco's economy." (ABC News)

5/ Michael Cohen's attorney denied that Trump knew about the $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, saying that "the president was not aware of the agreement." David Schwartz added: "At least Michael Cohen never told him about the agreement. I can tell you that." Experts suggest the denial could insulate Trump, but could also undermine the nondisclosure agreement that Daniels signed, which prevented her from disclosing her alleged affair with Trump. (Washington Post)

  • A federal judge in California temporarily stopped efforts by Stormy Daniels' attorney to depose Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The court denied Michael Avenatti's motion for an expedited trial and discovery process because Trump and Essential Consultants LLC have not yet filed a petition to compel arbitration, which they have stated they're going to do. Essential Consultants LLC is the company established by Cohen to pay Daniels the $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair between her and Trump. (CNN)

6/ David Shulkin said he was fired as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs because he was standing in the way of the Trump administration privatizing the VA, with "some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what's best for veterans." The former secretary said the "people who want to put VA health care in the hands of the private sector … saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed." (New York Times / NPR)

7/ Trump's nominee to run the VA has never managed a large bureaucracy. White House physician Ronny Jackson is the doctor who gave Trump a positive physical and mental health assessment in a televised briefing in January. Trump liked the way Jackson handled himself with reporters during the briefing, which played a part in Jackson's nomination for secretary of Veterans Affairs. (Politico / CNN)

8/ The Department of Housing and Urban Development is attempting to reverse federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws. Under Ben Carson, HUD has been freezing enforcement actions against local governments and businesses while sidelining officials who have attempted to pursue civil rights cases. The goal is to roll back the Obama administration's efforts to reverse racial, ethnic, and income segregation in housing and development projects subsidized by the federal government. (New York Times)

9/ The Justice Department will investigate the surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign official. The inspector general has faced increasing political pressure from Republicans in Congress and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to examine whether law enforcement officials complied with the law and DoJ policies while seeking approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Page. (New York Times)

10/ Jeff Sessions said he will not name a second special counsel at this time. Instead, Sessions revealed that Utah's top federal prosecutor, John Huber, is investigating allegations that the FBI abused its powers in surveilling Carter Page, and that more should have been done to investigate Hillary Clinton's ties to a Russian nuclear energy agency. (CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ 54% of Americans expect Trump to lose his campaign for re-election. 79% of Republicans expect Trump to win his 2020 re-election bid, while 87% of Democrats expect him to lose. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Six House Democrats are calling for the FBI to investigate whether Jared Kushner leaked classified information to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Intercept reported that the Saudi prince told confidants last year that Kushner had discussed Saudi leaders who are disloyal to the crown prince. (CNN)

  2. The FBI investigated Trump's plans to build a hotel in Latvia following Latvia's request for assistance with an anti-corruption investigation. The investigation targeted Igor Krutoy, a wealthy Putin supporter who was in on the plans and with whom Trump and daughter Ivanka met for several hours at Trump Tower in 2010. The hotel plan was abandoned after the investigation began. (The Guardian)

  3. Russia will close the American consulate in St. Petersburg and kick out 60 U.S. diplomats. The move comes in response to the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats from the U.S. and several European countries. (Washington Post)

  4. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is raising funds to help cover costs defending against ongoing government probes. McCabe was fired by Jeff Sessions but says he was terminated because he is a witness in the Russia investigation. (Reuters)

  5. Mike Pence's hometown will host its first gay pride parade next month. A high school student who is hosting the parade said that just because Pence is "openly anti-LGBT, it doesn't mean that the rest of us in his hometown are." A spokeswoman for Pence says he supports the young activist's efforts. (CNN)

  6. Trump tweeted photos taken in 2009 and tried to claim that they were "the start of our Southern Border WALL". The photos were from an ongoing project to replace sections of an existing border wall in California. (BuzzFeed News)

  7. Trump took time out of his busy presidential schedule to congratulate Roseanne Barr on the "huge" ratings "Roseanne" had received. The show returned to the air this week more than two decades after it ended its run. The first episode attracted 18.2 million viewers. (New York Times)

Day 433: Pertinent to the investigation.

1/ Rick Gates knowingly communicated with "a former Russian Intelligence Officer" during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to documents filed by Robert Mueller's investigators. Gates was in frequent contact with "Person A" – who has been identified as Konstantin Kilimnik – during the time he worked for Trump's campaign, including September and October 2016. The documents Mueller filed indicate that the communications between Gates and Kilimnik are "pertinent to the investigation." Kilimnik worked with Paul Manafort for four years on behalf of a Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian political party. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Go Deeper:

  • Gates is a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort and served as Manafort's deputy when Manafort was Trump's campaign manager.

  • Gates pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in a cooperation deal with Mueller.

2/ Gates told Alexander van der Zwaan that Kilimnik was a former intelligence officer with Russia's foreign intelligence service. The London-based lawyer, who previously worked with Gates and Manafort, pleaded guilty last month to lying to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators about his interactions with Gates and Kilimnik. Gates communicated with Kilimnik and van der Zwaan in a "series of calls" in September and October 2016. (CNN / Politico / The Hill)

  • Mueller's office is asking for jail time for Alexander van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to special prosecutors and the FBI. The special counsel's office didn't say how much jail time van der Zwaan should receive, but it did push back against van der Zwaan's argument that he should receive no jail time at all. Earlier court filings show he faces up to six months behind bars. (BuzzFeed News)

3/ Trump discussed the idea of pardoning both Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn with his lawyers last year as Robert Mueller was building cases against both men. John Dowd, who resigned last week, was hired last year to defend Trump during the Mueller inquiry. Dowd told Flynn's lawyer last summer that Trump was prepared to pardon Flynn. Dowd also discussed a pardon with Manafort's attorney before Manafort was indicted in October 2017 on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. (New York Times)

4/ Paul Manafort expects Trump to pardon him. Manafort doesn't plan to cooperate with Robert Mueller and will fight the charges of conspiracy, money laundering, tax and bank fraud, and making false statements to investigators. Manafort's co-defendant, Rick Gates, has agreed to work with the special counsel. (CBS News)

  • Paul Manafort asked a federal judge in Virginia to dismiss an indictment brought by Robert Mueller, saying the case falls outside the scope of Mueller's authority and is unrelated to Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The motion to dismiss was similar to one filed this month in another federal court in Washington, DC, where Manafort is facing a separate but related indictment also brought by Mueller. (Reuters)

5/ Pro-Trump media outlets have been circulating tweets and videos critical of Robert Mueller's investigation in an effort to undermine it. "It looks like the beginnings of a campaign," a person familiar with Trump's legal strategy said. "It looks like they are trying to seed the ground. Ultimately, if the president determines he wants to fire Mueller, he's going to want to make sure there’s ample public record that he can fall back on." (Politico)

6/ A pair of senators called on Trump to let Robert Mueller's investigation proceed "without impediment." In a bipartisan bill, Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons "urge President Trump to allow the Special Counsel to complete his work without impediment, which is in the best interest of the American people, the President, and our nation." (Politico)

7/ A federal judge will allow an emoluments lawsuit against Trump to proceed. The ruling from the US District Court of Maryland said the District of Columbia and Maryland may proceed with an unprecedented lawsuit against Trump alleging that Trump's business dealings have violated the Constitution's ban on improper payments from individual states and foreign governments. The case is required to focus on payments made by foreign officials for services at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. It cannot include visits to Mar-a-Lago in Florida or other Trump properties. (CNN / Washington Post)

8/ Stormy Daniels' attorney filed a motion to depose Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, about their knowledge of an agreement to pay the porn star $130,000 a week and a half before the 2016 election. In the court filing, Michael Avenatti said each deposition would last for no more than two hours. He also filed a motion seeking a jury trial in no more than 90 days. (CBS News / NBC News)

9/ At least 12 states plan to sue the Trump administration over the proposed addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington will join New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman in a multi-state lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from including the question on the next census. California has filed a separate suit. (New York Times)

10/ The EPA sent staffers a list of eight "approved talking points" about how to downplay climate change. The memo, sent by the EPA's Office of Public Affairs, encourages staffers to suggest that humans are only responsible "in some manner" for climate change and that there are "clear gaps" between "our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it." (Huffington Post / The Hill)

poll/ Overall, 45% of Americans surveyed said global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes – the highest overall percentage since Gallup first asked the question in 1997. However, just 18% of Republicans consider global warming a serious threat compared to 67% of Democrats. Meanwhile, 69% of Republicans think global warming is exaggerated, compared to 4% of Democrats. (Gallup)

poll/ 56% of Americans believe Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels and 51% believe Daniels' allegations that they had an affair. 91% said honesty is "very important" for elected officials to embody and 75% said the same about morality. 80% said extramarital affairs were morally wrong. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump secured a bilateral trade deal with South Korea ahead of nuclear talks with North Korea. The deal, expected to be announced this week, opens South Korea's markets to American automobiles, extends tariffs for South Korean truck exports, and restricts the amount of steel South Korea can export to the United States by nearly a third. (New York Times / Politico)

  2. Trump: "THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!" Trump tweeted the all-caps statement in response to retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calling yesterday for the Second Amendment to be repealed, citing the right to bear arms is outdated and misunderstood. (New York Times)

  3. Trump fired David Shulkin via tweet, announcing that he'll nominate his personal physician, Ronny Jackson, for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (Axios / New York Times)

  4. A Democratic candidate challenging House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2018. The California congressman has aligned himself closely with Trump. (CNN)

  5. A former Disney Channel star will join the Trump administration as a White House press aide. Caroline Sunshine is known for her role as Tinka Hessenheffer in "Shake It Up," a 2010 show about teen dancers. (CNN)

  6. James Comey will sit down with Anderson Cooper for a town hall on April 25th at 8pm ET. Comey will also talk with Jake Tapper at 4pm ET on April 19th. (The Hill / CNN)

Day 432: Botched obligations.

1/ The 2020 census will ask respondents if they are United States citizens, despite concerns from the Census Bureau. Inclusion of a citizenship question could prompt immigrants who are in the country illegally not to respond, resulting in an undercount of the population, which would affect government agencies and groups that rely on the census data. The effects could also affect redistricting of the House and state legislatures over the next decade. It's been 70 years since the government has included a question about citizenship on the census. (New York Times)

  • Why putting a citizenship question on the census is a big deal. (CNN)

2/ California has sued the Trump administration, arguing that the question about citizenship in the 2020 Census violates the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution requires a census every 10 years to count the "number of free persons" in each state. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleges the change violates the constitutional requirement of "actual Enumeration" of every person in every state, every 10 years, and that "California simply has too much to lose for us to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation." New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would lead a multi-state lawsuit, which Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she would join. (Washington Post / Politico)

3/ Trump has privately suggested that the US military could pay for the construction of his border wall. Trump told advisers and discussed the idea in a private meeting last week with House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying the Pentagon could fund his wall by citing a "national security" risk. The latest reports echo Trump's tweet last week: "Build a WALL through M!" (Washington Post / CNN)

4/ The White House is investigating whether two loans – totaling more than $500 million – to Jared Kushner's family business violated federal ethics regulations. A letter from the Office of Government Ethics, made public Monday, revealed that White House attorneys are looking into whether a $184 million loan from Apollo Global and a $325 million loan from Citigroup Inc. violated rules and laws governing the conduct of federal employees. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that White House attorneys are "not probing whether Jared Kushner violated the law." She added that "the White House counsel's office does follow up with staff to assist with compliance with various ethics standards." (The Hill)

5/ Trump has been telling some of his advisers that he hopes Rob Porter will return to the West Wing. Porter stepped down after allegations surfaced that he had abused both of his ex-wives, but Trump has stayed in touch with Porter since his departure. (New York Times)

6/ Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for a repeal of the Second Amendment, saying the right to bear arms is outdated and misunderstood. (The Hill / New York Times)

poll/ 21% of Americans support a repeal of the Second Amendment. 46% favor modifying the Second Amendment to allow for stricter regulations. (Washington Post)

poll/ 42% of Americans approve of the job Trump's doing as president – up seven points from a month ago. 58% disapprove. (Associated Press)

poll/ 47% of Americans say they approve of how Trump is handling the economy. 46% approve of Trump's tax policy. (Associated Press)

poll/ 58% of Americans want to see the investigation into Russian interference fully investigated, compared to 36% who think it's an effort to discredit Trump's presidency. 55% of Americans don't think Trump is doing enough to cooperate with the investigation. (CNN)

poll/ 62% of Americans approve of Trump's decision to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, while 31% disapprove. Overall, 43% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the North Korea situation. (CNN)

poll/ 63% of Americans believe the women who have alleged affairs with Trump over the president's denials. 21% say they believe Trump. 16% say they have no opinion. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Paul Ryan denies that he will resign later this year. Nevada Republican Mark Amodei said there is a rumor going around that Ryan will resign in the next 30 to 60 days. "The speaker is not resigning," a spokesperson for Ryan said. (CNN / The Hill / Washington Post)

  2. Trump is reportedly planning to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin amid several investigations into Shulkin's alleged spending abuses. An unnamed White House official said the chance of Shulkin being pushed out in the next few days is about "50-50." (Associated Press)

  3. Two more attorneys have declined offers to join Trump's legal team. Trump reached out to Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb and asked them to represent him. Both refused the offer. Buchanan and Webb said in a statement that they were "unable to take on the representation due to business conflicts." (The Daily Beast)

  4. The NRA confirmed that it accepts foreign donations but denied that it uses the money for election purposes. The Federal Election Commission is investigating whether a top Russian banker with Kremlin ties illegally funneled money to the NRA to aid Trump's campaign for president. (NPR)

  5. The FBI arrested a man near Seattle after suspicious packages were found at military bases and CIA headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area. The packages contained potential destructive devices. (ABC News)

  6. Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has invited Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to a hearing on data privacy on April 10. (CNN)

  7. Facebook shares fell 4.9%. The social network has lost nearly $80 billion in market value since March 16th, when it was announced that Facebook would suspend Cambridge Analytica. (CNN Money)

  8. Trump will let the Deferred Enforced Departure status for Liberians expire on March 31st as is scheduled and will not extend legal protection for them to remain in the U.S. (Axios)

  9. The author of the Trump dossier provided a report to the FBI asserting that Putin's former media czar was beaten to death by hired thugs in Washington, DC. The assertion contradicts the US government's official finding that RT founder Mikhail Lesin died by accident. (BuzzFeed News)

Day 431: Conflicts.

1/ Trump won't hire two attorneys who were supposed to join his legal team after all. The appointments were announced last week, but Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement that "conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining the president’s special counsel legal team." He added: "Those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters." (New York Times)

2/ Trump's personal legal team is down to one member as he struggles to find lawyers willing to represent him. Jay Sekulow is the only personal lawyer for Trump working full time on Robert Mueller's investigation. He is assisted by Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer paid by taxpayers to represent the institution of the presidency rather than Trump personally. John Dowd, who had been leading the team handling the Russia inquiry, resigned last week after strategy disputes with Trump, while Marc Kasowitz's role was reduced after a series of clashes with Trump over the summer. Emmet Flood, the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment process, said he will not represent Trump if Kasowitz has any role on the team, and another, Theodore Olson, declined to represent Trump. (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Trump expects to "make one or two major changes to his government very soon," according to Trump's friend Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax. "He told me he thinks the White House is operating like a smooth machine – his words," said Ruddy, and that Trump is "perplexed by all these reports that there’s chaos at the White House or mass staff changes." (ABC News)

4/ Stormy Daniels said she was threatened not to speak about her affair with Trump, Daniels told Anderson Cooper during her 60 Minutes interview. She also discussed statements and denials she previously made about the affair. After the interview aired, Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen sent Daniels a "cease and desist" letter, demanding that she stop speaking out about her relationship with Trump. (CBS News / Reuters)

5/ Trump "does not" believe Stormy Daniels was threatened and that "there is nothing to corroborate her claim," according to White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah. "The president doesn't believe any of the claims Ms. Daniels made in the interview last night were accurate." (Bloomberg / Politico)

  • The attorney for Stormy Daniels said Trump hasn't tweeted about Daniels because he knows her allegations of an affair are true. After 61 weeks in the White House and more than 2,900 tweets, Trump hasn't attacked two people on Twitter: Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model. (Politico / New York Times)

6/ Stormy Daniels accused Michael Cohen of defaming her by implying that she lied about her affair with Trump. "Just because something isn’t true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage," Cohen said in a mid-February statement. "I will always protect Mr. Trump." Daniels amended her existing lawsuit against Trump, adding Trump's personal attorney as a defendant in the case, and charging that the confidentiality agreement was illegal, because Trump never signed it. The new complaint also says Cohen's $130,000 payment exceeded federal campaign contribution laws and was never reported. (Washington Post / Politico)

7/ A government watchdog group accused Cambridge Analytica of violating federal election laws in a pair of legal complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice. The laws prohibit foreigners from participating directly or indirectly in the decision-making process of U.S. political campaigns. Cambridge Analytica sent dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to Republican candidates in 2014. The complaints were filed by Common Cause. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  • A government watchdog group has filed 30 ethics complaints with the White House and various federal agencies alleging that employees are working in violation of Trump's executive order intended to "drain the swamp" and keep the government free of former lobbyists. Public Citizen identified 36 lobbyists who'd been tapped for government jobs dealing with issues they'd lobbied on, and only six of those appointees have received waivers since then. (NBC News)

8/ The Federal Trade Commission confirmed that it's opened a non-public investigation into Facebook for its user privacy practices. Shares of Facebook fell as much as 6% after the FTC announced it is investigating the company's data practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica leak of 50 million users' information. (Axios / CNBC)

poll/ 69% of Americans support tougher gun control laws, up from 55% when the question was first asked in October of 2013. While 60% believe that making it harder to legally obtain a gun would result in fewer mass shootings, only 42% expect elected officials to take action. (Associated Press)

poll/ 62% of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. 32% say they think things will get better while 45% expect things to get worse. (Associated Press)

poll/ 42% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 54% disapprove. It is Trump's highest approval rating since the 100-day mark of his presidency. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The U.S. will expel 60 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil. The Russian consulate in Seattle will also be closed as part of the response. (NBC News)

  2. George Papadopoulos was encouraged to improve relations with Russia because it was a top foreign policy goal of the campaign. Emails turned over to investigators, show Papadopoulos had more contact with key Trump campaign and transition officials than has been publicly acknowledged. (Washington Post)

  3. Andrew McCabe: "Not in my worst nightmares did I ever dream my FBI career would end this way." … Trump's cruelty reminded me of the days immediately following the firing of James B. Comey, as the White House desperately tried to push the falsehood that people in the FBI were celebrating the loss of our director. The president’s comments about me were equally hurtful and false, which shows that he has no idea how FBI people feel about their leaders. (Washington Post)

  4. Kim Jong-Un made a surprise visit to Beijing. It was his first known trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011. (Bloomberg)

  5. Jimmy Carter: John Bolton as his new national security adviser is "the worst mistake" Trump has made. Bolton will be Trump's third national security adviser since taking office. (CBS News)

  6. Ryan Zinke told Interior Department employees that diversity isn't important and won't be a department focus. Instead, Zinke has told employees that he's looking for "the right person for the right job." (CNN)

  7. Zinke has appointed 15 representatives of the outdoor recreation industry to advise him on how to operate public lands, including three people who were flagged as potentially having a conflict of interest. (Washington Post)

  8. Hundreds of thousands of people joined the Parkland survivors in Washington to "March for Our Lives" while Trump spent the day at the Trump International Golf Club. The White House released a statement saying "We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today." Thousands more rallied at about 800 sister marches around the country and abroad, where students, like those in the capital, called for gun control and pledged to exercise their political power in the midterm elections this fall. (New York Times)

  9. An NRA representative to the Parkland students: "No one would know your names" if a gunman hadn't killed three staff members and 14 students at their school. The comment came on the eve of the March for Our Lives protest. (Washington Post)

  10. Rick Santorum said kids calling for stricter gun control measures should take CPR classes instead of protesting. "How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem," Santorum said, "do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that." (CNN)

  11. Remington, the oldest gun manufacturer in the US, filed for bankruptcy in the wake of slumping sales in order to cut a deal with its creditors. (BBC)

  12. Trump issued orders to ban transgender troops who require surgery or "substantial" medical treatment from serving in the military except in select cases. LGBTQ advocates called the decision "appalling, reckless and unpatriotic." (Politico)

Day 428: Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.

1/ The Senate passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill late last night, avoiding another government shutdown with less than a day before the deadline. The bill funds the federal government through the end of September and includes $700 billion for the military ($66 billion more than last year) and $591 billion for domestic agencies ($52 billion more than last year). (Washington Post / NBC News)

2/ Trump threatened to veto the spending package because it didn't provide funding for his border wall, but he signed it anyway. He was "unhappy" about it. The bill also doesn't address the fate of young undocumented immigrants and bill adds nearly $1.6 billion for border security, including $641 million for about 33 miles of fencing. In a tweet, Trump said he is "considering a VETO" because the budget doesn't include the $25 billion needed to build his wall or protections for young undocumented immigrants. Trump, who has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, wanted to trade long-term wall funding for protections for some young immigrants. (New York Times / CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

3/ Another Trump lawyer is expected to step down later this year, contingent on Trump finding a replacement. White House counsel Don McGahn has told associates he'd like to leave the White House by the summer, but his departure might be put on hold through the 2018 midterms. Trump personal lawyer John Dowd resigned on Thursday. Trump wants to have in place a new White House counsel with whom he's comfortable before McGahn exits. (Politico)

4/ Trump will replace H. R. McMaster with John Bolton as his national security adviser. Bolton is a Fox News commentator and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations. McMaster had reportedly been discussing his departure with Trump for several weeks. "The two have been discussing this for some time. The timeline was expedited as they both felt it was important to have the new team in place, instead of constant speculation," a White House official said. "This was not related to any one moment or incident, rather it was the result of ongoing conversations between the two." McMaster, a three-star Army general, also announced that he would retire from the military. Bolton will be Trump's third national security adviser in 14 months. Bolton was also passed over for a State Department job last year, because Trump didn't like his mustache. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)

5/ Trump's tweet firing McMaster disrupted John Kelly's plan to announce multiple administration departures at once. The White House has been waiting for an inspector general report on Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who have both been accused of misspending taxpayer money. The McMaster announcement was not expected to be made for at least another week. (Politico)

6/ Trump has reportedly considered firing and not replacing John Kelly, leaving Trump to essentially serve as his own chief of staff. Trump has discussed the possibility of having a handful of aides report directly to him, instead of going through a chief of staff. Steve Bannon said he doesn't expect Trump to replace Kelly if he leaves. "I've actually argued that if General Kelly at any time does decide to leave — (or) the president decides it’s time for him to move on — I don't believe there will be another chief of staff," Bannon said. "I think there will be five or six direct reports like there was in Trump Tower." (NBC News / The Hill)

7/ Steve Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica's early efforts to collect Facebook data as part of a program to build detailed profiles of millions of American voters. The 2014 effort was part of a form of voter persuasion touted by the company, which Bannon used to identify and test anti-establishment messages that later would be used in Trump's campaign speeches. Among the messages tested were "drain the swamp" and "deep state." (Washington Post)

  • The political action committee founded by John Bolton was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica. Bolton, of course, is Trump's incoming national security adviser. (New York Times)

  • The blueprint for how Cambridge Analytica claims it won the White House for Trump has been leaked. The 27-page presentation, produced by the Cambridge Analytica officials who worked closely on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, shows how they used Google, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. (The Guardian)

8/ Former Playboy model Karen McDougal said Trump once offered to pay her after they had sex. "After we had been intimate," McDougal told CNN, "he tried to pay me, and I actually didn't know how to take that." McDougal said Trump tried to hand her money immediately after their first sexual encounter more than a decade ago and that they were together "many dozens of times." (CNN / New York Times)

9/ Stormy Daniels' attorney implied that he has hard evidence of Trump's affair with the porn star, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. Michael Avenatti tweeted a photo of what appears to be a CD in a safe, with the caption: "If 'a picture is worth a thousand words,' how many words is this worth?????" The White House has denied that Trump ever had an affair with Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2016, weeks before the presidential election. The payment, Daniels says, was intended to buy her silence on the alleged affair. (The Hill)

10/ The "lone hacker" known as Guccifer 2.0 is actually a Russian intelligence officer. Guccifer claimed responsibility for the breach of the Democratic National Committee and the data dump of the stolen DNC emails. He publicly portrayed himself as the "lone hacker" who was able to penetrate the DNC, but a team of investigators identified him as an officer of Russia's military intelligence directorate, or GRU, after he failed to turn on the virtual private network (VPN) that he used to disguise his IP address. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based IP address in the server logs of an American social media company. (The Daily Beast)

Day 427: Another one bites the dust.

1/ Trump's lead attorney dealing with the special counsel investigation resigned. John Dowd's departure comes days after Trump called for an end to Robert Mueller's inquiry and days after Dowd said the investigation should end, initially claiming he was speaking for Trump before saying he was only speaking for himself. Trump's attorneys are in negotiations with the special counsel's team over a potential interview with Trump. It is not clear who will take over the president's legal team. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

2/ Trump: "Yes, I would like to" testify before Robert Mueller. His comment came shortly after John Dowd resigned from his personal legal team. (CBS News / CNN)

3/ Mueller's team has discussed four main topics with Trump's lawyers for a potential Trump interview. Specifically, the special counsel wants to know about Trump's role in crafting a statement aboard Air Force One about Trump Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower; the circumstances surrounding the Trump Tower meeting; and the firings of James Comey and Michael Flynn. Mueller's team is also looking at connections between Trump's campaign and Cambridge Analytica and how the data firm collected and utilized voter data in battleground states. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • House Democrats are attempting to force a vote on a bill that would protect Robert Mueller in the event that Trump tries to fire the special counsel. Steve Cohen, a member of the House Ethics Committee, filed a petition to call for a vote on a bill called the Special Counsel Integrity Act, which would prevent anyone from firing Mueller without just cause. "Recent events particularly concern me," Cohen wrote in a statement, "because it seems the President fears that Mueller is close to revealing findings relevant to his mandate and that ending the investigation is the only way to prevent its public release." (The Hill)

4/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to end their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, concluding that the evidence failed to amount to collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. (Politico)

5/ The House passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September. The budget boosts military and domestic spending, and includes $1.6 billion for more than 90 miles of physical barriers along the border with Mexico. The bill provides no resolution for DACA. The Senate will now need unanimous consent from all members to waive procedural rules in order to vote before the Friday midnight deadline when government funding is set to expire. (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post)

  • Congress rejected Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's school choice agenda and her attempt to spend more than $1 billion on promoting choice-friendly policies and private school vouchers. DeVos had sought to cut Education Department funding by $3.6 billion — about 5%. (Washington Post)

6/ Trump signed an executive memorandum to impose about $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports, saying "this is the first of many." The Trump administration said the tariffs are designed to penalize China for trade practices that involve stealing American companies' intellectual property. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer now has 15-days to come up with a proposed list of products that will face higher tariffs. The White House granted exemptions to American allies from steel and aluminum tariffs that go into effect on Friday, including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times)

  • The Dow dropped 724.42 points to close at 23,957.89 over concerns from investors about Trump's tariffs on China and the threat of a global trade war. Earlier in the session, the Dow dropped more than 500 points. (CNN Money / CNBC / Bloomberg)

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he doesn't think this will be the start of a trade war with China, but he does expect that "there will be some ultimate retaliation." (CNBC)

7/ Jeff Sessions wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty in drug-related cases whenever it's "appropriate." The move comes less than a week after Trump called for the execution of opioid dealers and traffickers. "In the face of all of this death, we cannot continue with business as usual," Sessions wrote in a memo to U.S. Attorneys offices. (Reuters)

8/ Trump tweeted that he would beat Joe Biden in a fight in response to Biden's suggestion that he would "beat the hell out of" Trump if they were in high school together. "Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy," Trump tweeted. "Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn't know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don't threaten people Joe!" (CNN)

poll/ 28% of Americans have a favorable view of Robert Mueller, compared to 19% who view him negatively. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Washington, D.C., and Maryland filed a lawsuit against Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits public officials from receiving gifts and payments from foreign governments without approval from Congress. The suit claims that Trump's refusal to divest from his personal businesses has allowed foreign governments to pay the Trump Organization directly for bookings and events. (WAMU)

  2. Rex Tillerson called D.C. "a very mean-spirited town" in his farewell address to State Department employees. He didn't mention Trump by name, said he hopes the department will "continue to treat each other with respect." (CBS News)

  3. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife took a security detail on their vacation to Greece and Turkey last year, in what one watchdog group said could be a "questionable" use of taxpayer resources. (Politico)

  4. Kellyanne Conway is poised to take over as the White House communications director in the wake of Hope Hicks' departure. Melania Trump and Mike Pence's chief of staff have recently encouraged her to take the job. (The Atlantic)

  5. The FEC is investigating whether Devin Nunes violated campaign finance laws. Nunes has until April 24 to respond to the FEC. (The Daily Beast)

  6. New York City's buildings regulator is investigating possible "illegal activity" at more than a dozen Kushner Cos. properties following a report that the real estate developer routinely filed false paperwork claiming it had zero rent-regulated tenants in its buildings across the city. (Associated Press)

  7. CBS will air its 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels on Sunday, March 25, at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT. The adult-film star says she had an affair with Trump. The president has denied having an affair with Daniels. (CBS News)


Today's update is brought to you by Gogo Inflight Internet. I'm on my way to the Society for News Design conference in New York to speak about how WTF Just Happened Today is powered by membership, and all the forms membership can take (financial vs non-financial).

Day 426: No sense of urgency.

1/ The Senate Intelligence Committee recommended that states buy voting machines that produce paper ballots and that they secure voter databases ahead of November's midterm elections. Senators, concerned about Russian meddling in the midterms, called on Congress to "urgently" make funds available for states to update their voting systems, institute vote audits, and hire staff focused on cybersecurity. (New York Times)

2/ Senators criticized the Trump administration for not doing enough to prepare for the 2018 midterms. "I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue," Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said. Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the committee, saying the 2018 midterms and future elections are "clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts." (CNN)

3/ Trump ignored specific warnings from his national security advisers not to congratulate Putin on his recent election win. Instead, Trump called Putin and opened by congratulating him. A section in Trump's briefing materials was titled "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" in all-capital letters. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump and John Kelly are reportedly furious over the leak that Trump congratulated Putin despite warnings from multiple national security advisers and briefing materials that said "DO NOT CONGRATULATE." It's still unclear if Trump read the guidance that was given to him by his advisers, but Trump defended his congratulatory call, tweeting that "Getting along with Russia… is a good thing," and that his "energy and chemistry" with Putin will be constructive. He capped off his second tweet with an all-caps: "PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!" (CNN / Axios)

  • A senior White House official who is not authorized to discuss the leak publicly commented that "leaking [president's briefing papers] is a fireable offense and likely illegal." A person in close contact with national security officials said John Kelly is "on a warpath" and "there's going to be a scalp over this." (Los Angeles Times)

5/ The former director of the CIA suggested that Russia may have compromising information on Trump "that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult." John Brennan, the CIA director under Obama, said the fact that Trump "had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin, has not said anything negative about him, I think continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear." Brennan was the CIA director in 2016 when the dossier surfaced that claimed the Russians had compromising information on Trump. (CNN / New York Times)

poll/ 40% of voters view the NRA negatively, compared with 37% who view the organization positively. the first time since before 2000 that more people in the poll have viewed the NRA in a negative light than in a positive light. (NBC News)

poll/ 70% of millennial women now identify as Democrats, up from 54% in 2002. 23% of millennial women identify as Republicans, down from 36% in 2002. (Pew Research Center)

poll/ 67% of voters say Trump is not a good role model for children. 55% don't think Trump has a good sense of decency. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. The Austin bombing suspect blew himself up as a SWAT team tried to apprehend him on the side of a highway. Mark Anthony Conditt is believed to have been responsible for at least six bombs that killed at least two people and wounded five. Police were closing in on Conditt's vehicle on Interstate 35 when "the suspect detonated a bomb inside the vehicle, knocking one of our SWAT officers back," Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. (NBC News / New York Times)

  2. Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica: "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you." Zuckerberg said Facebook will investigate all apps with access to Facebook data, limit access to data to prevent other kinds of abuse, and release a tool to help users understand who has access to their data. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  3. Andrew McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Jeff Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russians. McCabe authorized the investigation nearly a year before he was fired by Sessions for a "lack of candor." (ABC News)

  4. Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold is considering stepping down from Congress before the end of his term, which would allow him to dodge an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of inappropriate office behavior. (Politico)

  5. A Holocaust denier won the Illinois Republican primary in the state's Third Congressional District. The Illinois Republican Party tried to distance itself from Arthur Jones, blanketing the district with campaign fliers and robocalls urging voters to "stop Illinois Nazis." (New York Times)

  6. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent more than $163,000 on first-class flights, military aircraft, and charter flights in his first year in office. The agency has said the expensive flights were necessary because of the high number of security threats Pruitt has received. (Politico)

  7. The Republican National Committee spent at least $271,000 at Trump's private businesses in February. The expenditures represent 86% of the RNC's February spending. (Washington Post)

Day 425: Shuffling the deck.

1/ Trump has discussed firing one of his lawyers, while another is contemplating resignation. Ty Cobb, who has urged Trump to cooperate with Mueller's investigation, appears to be on the chopping block, while John Dowd has considered leaving the team because Trump ignores his legal advice. Trump tweeted that he's "VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow," although he recently met with Emmet Flood, the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings. Trump also added Joseph E. diGenova to his legal team on Monday. DiGenova is a regular Fox News commentator who has suggested that the FBI and the Justice Department conspired to deny Trump his "civil rights." (New York Times)

  • A seasoned, high-profile litigator declined to join Trump's legal team. Theodore Olson served as solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration and has more experience on landmark cases than any of Trump's current lawyers. (Washington Post)

2/ Paul Ryan says he received "assurances" that firing Robert Mueller is "not even under consideration." The House Speaker did not elaborate on the assurances. In January, Mitch McConnell declined to take up proposed legislation to protect Mueller because he knew of no "official" White House effort to undermine him. Today, McConnell said legislation was "not necessary" to protect Mueller against the threat of being fired by Trump. (CNN)

3/ Stormy Daniels passed a polygraph exam in 2011 about her relationship with Trump. The examiner found there was a 99% probability Daniels was telling the truth when she said she had unprotected sex with Trump in 2006. The White House and Trump's attorney have denied that the president had a sexual relationship with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. (NBC News)

4/ A former Playboy model, who alleges she had an affair with Trump, is suing to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence. Karen McDougal is suing American Media Inc., the company that owns The National Enquirer, which paid her $150,000 to buy her story and bury it, a practice known as "catch and kill." David Pecker is the CEO of American Media Inc. and a friend of Trump's. (New York Times)

5/ A Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled that Trump must face a defamation lawsuit by a former "Apprentice" contestant and that his job as commander-in-chief does not give him immunity from the lawsuit. Trump had argued that presidents are shielded from civil litigation in state courts under the US Constitution's supremacy clause. The assertion has never been fully tested by the courts, however, making the ruling a first-of-its-kind decision. (New York Post / Washington Post / The Hill)


Dept. of #FacebookExit.

  1. Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network's history. Cambridge Analytica – owned by Robert Mercer and headed by Steve Bannon at the time – hired Aleksandr Kogan, who built "a very standard vanilla Facebook app," which would scrape information from participants' profiles and those of their friends under the premise that the company was collecting information for academic purposes. (New York Times / The Guardian)

  2. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree over Cambridge Analytica's access and use of the personal data of 50 million Facebook users. Under the settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for changes to privacy settings. (Bloomberg)

  3. Facebook's chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, is leaving the company following disagreements among top Facebook executives over their response to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections and potential interference in the 2018 midterms. The issue is rooted in how much Facebook should publicly share about the ways in which their platform was misused in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. Stamos oversaw Facebook's security team, which was once 120 people, but is currently down to three people. Stamos plans to leave the company by August. (New York Times)

  4. Cambridge Analytica's CEO was caught on tape suggesting that the company could entrap political rivals through seduction or bribery. In an undercover investigation by Britain's Channel 4 News, Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world using front companies, former spies, and contractors. (Channel 4 / New York Times / Washington Post)

  5. Cambridge Analytica claimed it "ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy" for Trump, according the undercover investigation by Channel 4 News. (Channel 4)

  6. Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix and is launching an independent investigation to determine if the company engaged in any wrongdoing. (Wall Street Journal)

  7. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg didn't attend an internal employee briefing about Facebook's role in the Trump-Cambridge Analytica scandal. The session was instead conducted by a Facebook attorney. (The Daily Beast)

  8. Facebook's stock fell about 7% on Monday, cutting about $37 billion off the value of the company. Mark Zuckerberg personally lost about $5 billion in net worth. (CNN Money / Wall Street Journal)

  9. How to delete Facebook. First, download your archive by going to "Settings," click "Download a copy of your Facebook data" at the bottom of General Account Settings, and then click "Start My Archive." When you're ready to delete your account, click this link, which will take you to the account deletion page. Once you delete your account, it cannot be recovered. (The Verge)


Dept. of Swamp Things.

  1. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will testify before the House Appropriations Committee about her "Education Reform Plan," which calls for a 5% spending cut and eliminates dozens of programs. It includes a $1 billion school choice proposal. Department staff said DeVos tried to withhold information in the budget justifications submitted to Congress. (New York Times)

  2. Ben Carson defended the purchase of a $31,000 dining set, telling the House Appropriations Committee that the furniture was necessary because "people were stuck by nails, and a chair had collapsed with someone sitting in it." He admitted, however, that he failed to adhere to a $5,000 federal spending cap for the purchase. (Bloomberg / New York Times)

  3. Three Trump appointees with pro-abstinence beliefs directed the process to end a federal teen pregnancy prevention program last year, over the objections of career experts in the Department of Health and Human Services. One appointee was previously the president of Ascend, an association that promotes abstinence until marriage as the best way to prevent teen pregnancy. (NBC News)

  4. A new Mississippi law bans most abortions after 15 weeks' gestation with no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exceptions are if a fetus has health issues that are "incompatible with life" outside of the womb, or if a pregnant woman's life is threatened by the pregnancy. (NBC News)

  5. A federal judge temporarily blocked the new Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The temporary restraining order was requested by the state's only abortion clinic. (Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. An "ashamed" Fox News Commentator quit the "propaganda machine," denouncing both the network and Trump in an email to colleagues. (BuzzFeed News)

  2. Trump is preparing to impose $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese products. Trump plans to unveil the tariffs on by Friday. (Washington Post)

  3. Shutdown Watch: Congress and the White House are moving closer to a $1.3 trillion spending bill ahead of a Friday deadline to fund the government. (Politico)

  4. Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his recent re-election. The call comes days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and "malicious cyberattacks." The Trump administration has also recently criticized Russia for its apparent role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. (New York Times)

Day 424: Brilliant and courageous.

1/ Trump's legal team recently turned over documents to Robert Mueller in hopes of limiting the scope of a possible presidential interview and minimizing Trump's exposure to the special counsel. The documents include summaries of internal White House memos and communication about key moments, including the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump hired a lawyer who promoted the theory that the FBI and Justice Department framed Trump in order to keep him from becoming president. On Fox News in January, Joseph diGenova said: "There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn't win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime." He added, "Make no mistake about it: A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime." (New York Times)

3/ Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe 24 hours before he was set to retire. Sessions announced the decision to fire the now-former deputy director of the FBI just before 10 pm ET on Friday, saying McCabe was fired because he "made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions." In an interview, McCabe defended himself. "The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong," he said. McCabe added: "This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness" and to undermine Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ Three sources contradicted Jeff Sessions' claims that he "pushed back" against a George Papadopoulos proposal for Trump's campaign to meet with Russians in 2016. Some Democrats think the discrepancies in Sessions' testimony suggest the attorney general may have committed perjury. (Reuters)

5/ Trump's personal lawyer wants Rod Rosenstein to end Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. "I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier," John Dowd wrote in an email comment about McCabe's firing. Dowd initially said he was speaking on behalf of Trump "as his counsel," but later said he was not speaking on the president's behalf. (The Daily Beast)

6/ McCabe met with Mueller and turned over memos detailing his interactions with Trump, similar to the notes compiled by James Comey. The memos apparently include corroborating details about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. It's unclear when McCabe's interview took place. (Axios / Associated Press / CNN)

7/ Trump attacked Mueller by name for the first time on Twitter, calling the special counsel's investigation a "WITCH HUNT!" in a tweet. Trump also charged that the memos written by James Comey and Andrew McCabe were "Fake Memos" because he "spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me." In one tweet, Trump also complained that Mueller's team is partisan with "13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?" Mueller and Rosenstein are both Republicans. (Washington Post / New York Times)

8/ Republican senators warned Trump not to fire Robert Mueller and to let federal investigators do their jobs. Lindsey Graham said if Trump were to dismiss Mueller, it would mark "the beginning of the end of his presidency." Trey Gowdy, meanwhile, said if Trump is innocent, he should "act like it" and leave Mueller alone. Paul Ryan issued a statement advising Trump that "Mueller and his team should be able to do their job." Mitch McConnell, however, had no comment. Following the pushback, White House lawyer Ty Cobb issued a statement on Sunday night saying Trump was not considering firing Mueller. (Reuters / Politico)

poll/ 74% of Americans feel that a "deep state" of unelected government officials is probably manipulating national policy. 27% believe a deep state definitely exists, 47% think it probably exists, 21% don't believe a deep state exists, and 5% don't know. 31% of Republicans and 33% of Independents said they definitely believe in the existence of a deep state. 19% of Democrats, meanwhile, said the deep state definitely exists. (Monmouth)


Notables.

  1. Jared Kushner's family real estate company routinely filed false documents with the New York City housing department. Kushner Companies claimed that it had zero rent-regulated tenants, even though there were actually hundreds of such tenants living in dozens of buildings it owned throughout the city. The move allowed the company to circumvent rules that would have prevented developers from pushing low-rent tenants out of the buildings. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he is "very concerned about the allegations" and plans to meet with tenant representatives in the coming days. (Associated Press / Bloomberg)

  2. The DACA-border wall deal fell apart after the White House refused to provide a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million young immigrants eligible under the DACA program. Trump wants $25 billion for his border wall in exchange for extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program through fall of 2020. (Politico)

  3. The Supreme Court declined to take up a Republican challenge to the redrawn Pennsylvania congressional map ahead of the 2018 elections. Republicans drew a gerrymandered map in 2011 that resulted in a 13-5 congressional district advantage. (NPR)

  4. Senior White House officials are considering whether to re-hire Trump's personal aide John McEntee, days after he was abruptly fired and escorted off the property. The reasons for McEntee's firing are still unclear, but they are believed to be related to his gambling habits. (Politico)


Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and Trump

*There's a huge story here, but I haven't had time to make sense of it. Here's a few of the stories making the rounds. I'll have a summary update tomorrow. *

  1. How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions (New York Times)

  2. 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach (The Guardian)

  3. Cambridge Analytica, Trump-Tied Political Firm, Offered to Entrap Politicians (New York Times)

  4. The CEO of the Trump 2016 data firm was recorded pitching illegal overseas campaign tactics (Washington Post / Channel 4)

  5. Ted Cruz under fire in Cambridge Analytica scandal (Dallas News)

  6. Facebook's value plunges $37 billion on data controversy (CNN Money)

Day 421: 100% safe.

1/ Trump plans to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster and is currently considering potential replacements. Trump plans to take his time with the transition in order to avoid humiliating McMaster and ensure he has a strong replacement. Other Trump officials, like Ben Carson and Mick Mulvaney, are also rumored to be on the chopping block. "There will always be change," Trump said. "I think you want to see change. I want to also see different ideas." Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, disputed the story that Trump had decided to fire McMaster, tweeting: "Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster — contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC." (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump is on track to hire multiple cable news personalities to fill out his cabinet. Trump has discussed having Fox News contributor John Bolton succeed McMaster as national security adviser. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin could be replaced with Pete Hegseth, the co-host of Fox and Friends Weekend. Trump has already named Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as his chief economic adviser. (Washington Post)

3/ John Kelly, whose departure has been rumored to be imminent, has settled on a temporary truce with Trump. After a meeting with Kelly, Trump told advisers that his chief of staff was "100% safe." Kelly told colleagues that the two of them have patched things up for the moment. "I'm in," Kelly told his staff. Later, Kelly speculated that all the recent news about possible staffing changes is because Trump has been talking with people outside of the White House when he's not around. (Wall Street Journal / Axios)

4/ Stormy Daniels was threatened with "physical harm" in response to her claims that she had an affair with Trump in 2006. When Mika Brzezinski asked on MSNBC's Morning Joe "Was she threatened [with] physical harm?," Daniels' lawyer said yes but didn't say what the specific threats were, or whether Trump was the one who personally threatened her. During a CNN interview later in the day, Daniels' lawyer confirmed that some of the threats have taken place during the Trump presidency. Daniels' interview with 60 Minutes is set to air on March 25. (MSNBC / CNN / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Ivanka Trump will meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in the U.S. in the wake of the abrupt firing of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (The Hill)

  2. Vanessa Trump filed for divorce from Trump Jr. The filing comes a day after Robert Mueller subpoenaed documents related to Trump's family businesses, which Eric Trump and Trump Jr. have been running while their father is in office. (Page Six)

  3. All seven U.S. troops aboard a military helicopter that crashed in western Iraq on Thursday are dead. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation, but U.S. officials do not believe it was downed as a result of enemy action. (New York Times)

  4. Rep. Louise Slaughter died Friday at age 88, while serving her 16th term in the House of Representatives. Slaughter was the oldest sitting member of Congress, and had been planning to seek reelection in November. (NPR)

  5. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a rule that required financial advisers to act in the best interest of their clients. In a 2-1 ruling, the court said the fiduciary rule bears the hallmarks of “unreasonableness” and constitutes an arbitrary and capricious exercise of administrative power. (The Hill)

  6. A resolution denouncing white nationalists and neo-Nazis died in the Tennessee statehouse 36 seconds after being introduced. (CNN)

Day 420: Malicious.

1/ Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents related to Russia and other topics he's investigating. The subpoena was delivered in "recent weeks" and is the first known order directly related to Trump's businesses. (New York Times)

2/ A lawyer for the Trump Organization filed documents to keep Stormy Daniels from talking about her alleged affair with Trump. A "demand for arbitration" document dated February 22, 2018, names Jill Martin, a top lawyer at the Trump Organization, as the attorney representing the company Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, established to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Daniels. The new documents, marked "HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL PROCEEDING," show a direct connection between Trump's company and the nondisclosure agreement Daniels signed, raising questions about Cohen's previous statement that "neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford." Stormy Daniels' real name is Stephanie Clifford. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

3/ BuzzFeed wants to use Michael Cohen's libel suit against them to demand that Stormy Daniels preserve all records related to her relationship with Trump, including all negotiations, agreements, and payments involving Cohen and the $130,000 payment she received before the 2016 election as part of a nondisclosure agreement she is now trying to void. Cohen filed a libel suit in January against BuzzFeed and four staffers over the publication of the dossier of allegations about Trump's relationship with Russia.(Politico)

  • Stormy Daniels said multiple women are exploring potential legal cases against Trump. Michael Avenatti, who represents Stephanie Clifford — known professionally as Stormy Daniels — said other women have reached out to him for representation in cases against Trump. (BuzzFeed News)

4/ Trump's lawyers are preparing for a potential interview with Robert Mueller. They're working out answers to possible questions and negotiating the terms of the interview. Trump's lawyers argue that Mueller must first show that his investigation can't be completed without an interview with Trump. They've also studied the possibility of answering questions in writing. (Politico)

5/ Trump imposed sanctions on Russian organizations and individuals in retaliation for interference in the 2016 presidential election and other "malicious" cyberattacks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the cyberattacks "the most destructive and costly cyberattack in history," having caused billions of dollars in damage in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

6/ The Trump administration accused Moscow of a deliberate, ongoing hacking operation to penetrate the U.S. energy grid, aviation systems, and other infrastructure. "Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors" have targeted "government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors," including those of energy, nuclear, water and aviation, according to an alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security and F.BI. (Associated Press / Bloomberg / Politico)

7/ At a fundraiser Trump bragged that he made up facts about U.S. trade relations with Canada during a meeting with Justin Trudeau, insisting that the U.S. runs a trade deficit with Canada without knowing whether that was true. Canada and the U.S. calculate the trade balance differently. According to Statistics Canada, Canada runs a surplus, while the U.S. Commerce Department reports a $12.5 billion U.S. surplus. Regardless, Trump doubled down on his claim of a deficit, tweeting: "We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive)." (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

Excerpt from Trump's fundraising speech

"Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin. He said, 'No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,'" Trump said during fundraising speech, according to audio obtained by the Washington Post. Trump continued: "I said, 'Wrong, Justin, you do.' I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, 'You're wrong.' You know why? Because we're so stupid. … And I thought they were smart."


Notables.

  1. The American military acknowledged that U.S. special forces were involved in another firefight in Niger in December. The battle took place two months after four U.S. soldiers died in an ambush in Niger, and after senior commanders imposed additional restrictions on U.S. military operations in the country. No American or Nigerien forces were injured during the firefight. (New York Times)

  2. Conor Lamb officially won the special House election in Pennsylvania. Lamb won by a very small margin, securing his victory after just a few thousand absentee ballots came in. Rick Saccone may still contest the outcome of the election. (New York Times)

  3. Paul Manafort asked a federal judge to dismiss five criminal charges against him, arguing that special counsel Robert Mueller had no right to indict him for work done before he joined the Trump campaign as chairman in 2016. (CNN)

  4. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes Trump will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in May. Israeli officials say that the departure of Rex Tillerson is another sign that Trump is headed towards withdrawing from the Iran deal. (Axios)

  5. John Kelly may also be on the way out, according to congressional and administration sources. (CBS News)

Day 419: A movement, not a moment.

1/ Students from more than 3,000 schools walked out today to demand stricter gun regulation, including bans on assault weapons and expanded background checks. The National School Walkout started at 10 a.m. ET and will continue across the country at 10 a.m. in each time zone, sparked by last month's school shooting in Florida. The protests will last for 17 minutes to honor each of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago. Some school districts have said they will discipline students who participate in the walkouts. "Change never happens without backlash," Pope High School senior Kara Litwin said. "This is a movement, this is not simply a moment, and this is only the first step in our long process." (NPR / CNN / USA Today / New York Times)

2/ A teacher who is also a reserve police officer injured three students after accidentally firing a gun inside a California classroom during a class devoted to public safety. Immediately before the gun fired, Dennis Alexander told the class that he wanted to make sure the gun wasn't loaded as he pointed it to the ceiling. "I think a lot of questions on parents' minds are, why a teacher would be pointing a loaded firearm at the ceiling in front of students," the district superintendent said. [Editor's note: Why would a teacher be bringing a loaded firearm to school?] (KSBW / Washington Post)

3/ In a separate incident, a school resource officer with the Alexandria, Virginia, Police Department accidentally fired his weapon at George Washington Middle School. The officer was inside his office at the time, and a department representative declined to say whether the officer had taken his gun out of his holster. No one, including the officer, was injured. (WTOP / NBC Washington)

4/ The House of Representatives passed a school safety bill by a vote of 407-10 to help schools and local law enforcement prevent gun violence. The bill provides training for school officials and local law enforcement to respond to mental health crises, as well as money to develop systems for reporting threats. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. (Reuters / CNN)

5/ Democrat Conor Lamb is narrowly leading Republican Rick Saccone in a Pennsylvania special election that's still too close to call. With 100% of votes counted, Lamb has a 627-vote lead over Saccone in a district that Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points and that was once considered an easy win for Republicans. The district will not exist in 2019, however, because the State Supreme Court ruled in January that Pennsylvania's House map was gerrymandered unlawfully and district lines have been redrawn. Whoever wins will be forced to run in a new district in November. (New York Times / The Hill / Vox / FiveThirtyEight)

  • Republicans don't plan to concede in the contested special election in Pennsylvania. The National Republican Congressional Committee said it is "not ruling out a recount." Democrat Conor Lamb holds a lead of less than 700 votes over Republican Rick Saccone. There are still about 203 absentee ballots and then additional provisional and military ballots left to be counted. (The Hill)

6/ Emails show Ben Carson and his wife selected the $31,000 furniture set for his Department of Housing and Urban Development dining room, undercutting claims by his spokesman that he had little or no involvement in the purchase. An August email, with the subject line "Secretary's dining room set needed," refers to "printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out." (CNN)

7/ The family of a slain DNC staffer filed a lawsuit against Fox News, an investigative reporter, and one of the network's frequent guests over a story about Seth Rich and their allegations that he was involved in a conspiracy. (ABC News)

8/ Trey Gowdy contradicted his own Republican-led House Intelligence Committee's findings in the Russia probe. Gowdy said Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election was motivated in part "by a desire" to hurt Hillary Clinton's candidacy. The committee disagreed with the intelligence community's assessment "with respect to Putin's supposed preference for candidate Trump." (CNBC)

9/ Trump is open to a short-term DACA deal in exchange for border wall funding. One idea under consideration is a three-year extension of DACA in exchange for three years of wall funding. Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September. (Washington Post)

poll/ 51% of Trump voters think his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels was immoral, and 75% think the allegations are not relevant to Trump's presidency. (HuffPost)

poll/ 41% of voters think Trump should meet with Kim Jong Un without preconditions. 36% want Trump to meet with Kim only if North Korea makes concessions regarding its nuclear program beforehand. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump floated the idea of developing a "Space Force," a new branch of the military that would operate outside of earth's atmosphere. The Space Force apparently started as a joke, but Trump has since decided it's "a great idea," because "space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea." (CNBC)

  2. Jeff Sessions is reviewing a recommendation to fire former F.B.I. deputy director Andrew McCabe days before he retires on Sunday. Justice Department officials expect McCabe to be fired before Friday, which would jeopardize his pension as a 21-year F.B.I. veteran. (New York Times)

  3. Rand Paul opposes Mike Pompeo's nomination to replace Rex Tillerson, and is vowing to do everything he can to stop Pompeo from becoming secretary of state. (Politico)

  4. Trump will name economist and CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow to head the White House's National Economic Council. Kudlow will replace Gary Cohn, who resigned over disagreements with Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. (CNBC / CNN)

  5. British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian "undeclared intelligence officers" following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. May said there is "no alternative conclusion" other than Russia being responsible for their attempted murder. (Sky News)

  6. Nikki Haley said U.S. believes Russia was responsible for the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. Haley told the U.N. Security Council it should hold the Kremlin "accountable." (NBC News)

  7. Melania Trump plans to meet with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Snap next week to discuss cyberbullying and ways to combat online harassment and promote Internet safety. (Washington Post)

Day 418: You're fired.

1/ Trump fired Rex Tillerson. CIA Director Mike Pompeo will replace Tillerson as Secretary of State. John Kelly told Tillerson that Trump wanted to replace him last Friday. Tillerson received a call from Trump more than three hours after he'd been fired. A spokesman said Tillerson "had every intention of staying" in his job and was "unaware of the reason" for his firing. Trump said the move had been considered for "a long time" and that "we were not thinking the same." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 🔥 Who The Fuck Has Left The Trump Administration

  • Tillerson will remain in his post until March 31st, but is delegating all authorities for running the State Department to Deputy Secretary John Sullivan.

  • Tillerson thanked career diplomats for their "honesty and integrity" during a press conference. He did not thank Trump or praise his policies.

  • The White House fired Rex Tillerson's spokesman, Steve Goldstein, for contradicting the official administration account of Tillerson's own firing. (CNBC)

2/ Hours before being fired, Rex Tillerson called the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter an "egregious act" that "clearly" came from Russia. He added that Russia is "an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens." On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it is "highly likely" Russia is responsible for the poisoning, either directly or because it lost control of the nerve agent. The two were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in the U.K. and were found unconscious. (NBC News)

  • Trump: "As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be." (Reuters)

  • Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov was found dead at his home in London. The Metropolitan police said there was no evidence at present to suggest a link to the incident in Salisbury, where Sergei and Yulia Skripal remain in a critical condition. (The Guardian)

3/ Gina Haspel, currently the deputy director of the CIA, will replace Pompeo as the head of the CIA. Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand. (New York Times)

4/ Trump's personal assistant, John McEntee, was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for financial crimes, which prevented him from obtaining a full security clearance. McEntee will rejoin Trump's reelection campaign as a senior adviser of operations. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

5/ Trump is considering firing Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin and replacing him with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Shulkin has been under scrutiny over ethics concerns, including ordering the VA's third-most-senior official to alter an email to make it appear that he was receiving an award from the Danish government so the VA could pay more than $4,300 for his wife's airfare. (New York Times)

6/ House Intelligence Committee Republicans said their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. The committee agreed with the findings of the intelligence community that Russia had interfered, but they disagreed that the Russians favored Trump. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said the Republican decision to end the investigation was "another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch," adding: "By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly." (New York Times / CNN)

  • A Russian national who was extradited to the U.S. last year over Kremlin objections pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aiding and abetting computer intrusion, admitting he operated a dark web service that helped thousands of hackers conceal malware from detection. (The Daily Beast)

7/ In the spring of 2016, Roger Stone said he learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that the organization had obtained the emails of John Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks released the documents in late July and October. U.S. intelligence concluded the hackers who obtained the emails were working for Russia. Stone has since denied any communication with Assange or knowledge of the document dumps by WikiLeaks. Assange and WikiLeaks have also said they never communicated with Stone. (Washington Post)

8/ A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman resigned over what he says were "false" and "misleading" statements by Justice Department officials, including Jeff Sessions and ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan. James Schwab said he couldn't continue to do his job after Trump administration officials made false public statements about a key aspect of a recent Northern California sweep. (San Francisco Chronicle / Washington Post)

poll/ 42% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of North Korea, but 64% of Americans are uneasy about the situation. (CBS News)


Notables.

  1. Rick Saccone asserted that his political opponents "hate" the president, the United States, and God. The Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate trails Democrat Conor Lamb by six percentage points heading into today's special election for the state's 18th congressional district. (NBC News)

  2. Paul Manafort could spend the "rest of his life in prison," a federal judge said. Manafort was ordered to "home incarceration" and "24-hour-a-day lockdown at his residence" while he awaits trial. (Politico)

  3. Trump wants to impose tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese imports, targeting the technology and telecommunications sectors, as well as imposing investment restrictions in response to allegations of intellectual property theft. (Politico / Reuters)

  4. Trump blocked Broadcom's $117 billion bid for the chip maker Qualcomm, citing national security concerns. Trump said "credible evidence" led him to believe that if the Singapore-based company were to acquire Qualcomm, it "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States." (New York Times)

  5. Trump has been seeking counsel on how to handle the Stormy Daniels situation. Confidants have advised Trump not to fight Daniels' decision to break a confidentiality agreement because it would make him look guilty, which is the only reason Trump has stayed quiet on the issue and hasn't tweeted about it. (CNN)

  6. Trump missed the deadline to accept the return of a $130,000 settlement payment from Stormy Daniels, who had offered to return the money in exchange for the freedom to speak about her alleged affair with Trump. "Time to buckle up," Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti said. (The Guardian)

  7. Trump is in San Diego personally examining eight prototypes for his border wall to, as he put it, "pick the right one." (NBC News)

Day 417: Still intends to cooperate.

1/ Trump still "intends to" meet with special counsel Robert Mueller under oath, according to White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah. He added that Trump doesn't plan on firing Mueller, yet. "There's no intention whatsoever to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel, right now," he said. "We've been fully cooperative. We respect their process. We're hoping it will come to a conclusion in the near future." (ABC News)

2/ Robert Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation is said to be near completion, but the special counsel may wait until other parts of his probe are completed. The calculus: Any clear outcomes in the obstruction of justice case might undercut the broader investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Mueller "is not an unguided missile. I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel." (Bloomberg / USA Today)

3/ Trump is considering whether to add Bill Clinton's impeachment lawyer to his legal team. Emmet Flood met with Trump in the Oval Office last week to discuss the possibility, but no final decision has been made. (New York Times)

4/ The Qatari government chose not to provide information to Robert Mueller for fear of hurting their relationship with the Trump administration. Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings. (NBC News)

5/ Ivanka Trump received $1.5 million in 2017 from three companies affiliated with the Trump Organization. Ivanka's continued ties to the family business and work as a special assistant to the president has created numerous potential conflicts of interest prohibited by federal law. Some Trump-branded developments have hired state-owned companies for construction, received public land or relaxed regulations from foreign governments, and accepted payments from foreign officials. Ivanka has been accused of violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government officials to accept gifts from foreign governments without the approval of Congress. (McClatchy DC)

  • Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a friend who helped raise millions of dollars for his father's 2016 presidential campaign. Gentry Beach last year met with top National Security Council officials to push a plan that would curb U.S. sanctions in Venezuela and open up business for U.S. companies in the oil-rich nation. (Associated Press)

6/ The Trump administration promised to fund "rigorous firearms training" for schoolteachers while walking back its commitment to raising the legal purchasing age for firearms to 21. The White House also formally endorsed a bill to improve the federal background check system, and Trump plans to establish a Federal Commission on School Safety to explore possible solutions, which will be chaired by Betsy DeVos. (Washington Post / NBC News)

7/ Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to answer basic questions about education policy and schools during a "60 Minutes" interview. In particular, DeVos had a hard time explaining why public schools in her home state of Michigan have performed poorly despite the school choice policies she's championed. A student who survived last month's mass shooting at a Florida high school mocked DeVos on Twitter, saying "It's unfair to put the United States Secretary of Education on the spot like that." (CBS News / Washington Post / The Hill)

8/ White House lawyers are considering legal action to prevent "60 Minutes" from airing an interview with adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. The legal argument behind the move to suppress the footage remains unclear. To stop the interview from airing, Trump would need to secure a restraining order against CBS, which makes it almost certainly too late for Trump to disrupt the telecast. The interview is slated to air on Sunday, March 18, on CBS. (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post)

9/ Stormy Daniels offered to return the $130,000 she received from Trump's personal lawyer in 2016 for agreeing not to discuss her alleged relationship with Trump. In the letter sent to Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, Stephanie Clifford would wire the money into an account of Trump's choosing by Friday. (New York Times / Reuters)

10/ Putin suggested that Jews were responsible for the cyberattacks during the 2016 election when asked about 13 Russian citizens charged by the special counsel Robert Mueller. "Maybe they are not even Russians," Putin mused, "but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship or a Green Card. Maybe the U.S. paid them for this. How can you know that? I do not know either." Top Democratic leaders in the House and Senate urged Trump to employ "all resources available" to extradite the 13 Russians. (New York Times / NBC News)

11/ More than two-thirds of House Democrats have signed a letter "strongly urging" Trump to enact sanctions on Russia and adhere to the law he signed last summer. At least 137 of the Democrats in the House have signed the letter, which urges Trump to "reverse course, follow the letter and spirit of the law, and demonstrate that the security of our country and integrity of elections are sacrosanct." (Reuters)

  • In 2013, Trump personally invited Putin to the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. At the bottom of the typed letter, Trump added that he looked forward to seeing "beautiful" women during his trip. (Washington Post)

12/ The House Intelligence Committee has finished interviewing witnesses in its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Republican-run committee is preparing a report based on witness testimony and thousands of pages of documents. The panel is unlikely to come to a bipartisan conclusion on some of the central questions in the probe. (Wall Street Journal)

13/ Theresa May said it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for poisoning a former Russian double agent and his daughter last week in the U.K. The British leader said the poison was identified as a "military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia" and that Russia either engaged in an "indiscriminate and reckless" attack against Britain or it lost control of the nerve agent it developed. Russian officials called May's remarks "a provocation" and "circus show." (The Guardian / BBC / Washington Post)

poll/ Democrat Conor Lamb has a 6-point lead over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania's special election. Lamb holds a 51% to 45% lead over Saccone if the Democratic turnout is similar to voting patterns seen in other special elections over the past year. (Monmouth University Polling Institute)


Notables.

  1. Steve Bannon: "Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists," he told a crowd of far-right French politicians. "Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker." (ABC News)

  2. Trump thinks Republican Rick Saccone is a terrible, "weak" candidate despite appearing at a rally for Saccone's campaign in the Pennsylvania special congressional election. Trump barely mentioned Saccone during his 80-minute speech. Instead, he focused on Oprah, his plan to deal with drug dealers, and unveiling his new campaign slogan for 2020: "Keep America Great." (Axios / CNN)
  3. Some White House officials believe the chances of a Trump-Kim Jong-un meeting happening are less than 50%. The administration is deliberating over the logistics and location of the meeting although it hasn't established direct contact with North Korea. (New York Times)

  4. The White House "scolded" four Cabinet-level officials last month for embarrassing stories about questionable ethical behavior at their respective agencies. (CNN)

  5. The Trump administration is studying a new policy that could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers. The White House wants to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl a capital crime because even small amounts of the drug can be fatal. A final announcement could come within weeks. (Washington Post)

Day 414: But his emails.

1/ Michael Cohen used his Trump Organization email to arrange the $130,000 transfer to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about her affair with Trump. Trump's personal attorney regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress – whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford – before she signed a nondisclosure agreement. Daniels filed a civil suit against Trump alleging the contract she signed is invalid because it's intentionally missing Trump's signature "so he could later, if need be, publicly disavow any knowledge of the 'Hush Agreement'" or the affair. (NBC News / NPR)

2/ Michael Cohen's use of Trump Organization email address to organize payment to Stormy Daniels may have violated federal election law. Corporations and labor organizations are prohibited from making contributions to candidates or political committees. Daniels alleges that the money was paid to keep her from talking about a sexual relationship she had with Trump. Cohen, meanwhile, has argued that he used his personal funds to "facilitate" the payment and that he did not get reimbursed by the Trump Organization or campaign. (Washington Post / CNBC)

3/ Trump has added another lawyer in his outside legal team to take on Stormy Daniels. Lawrence Rosen, a New York attorney described as a "pit bull," will join Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in responding to the growing legal issues surrounding reports that Cohen paid the adult-film star to keep quiet about her affair with Trump. (ABC News / The Hill)

4/ Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un to negotiate "permanent denuclearization" of North Korea, which will cease all missile testing while the negotiations are being held. The two leaders are expected to meet in the next 60 days. News of a potential meeting has been met with positive reactions from China, Russia, and South Korea. (New York Times / Fox News)

  • Dennis Rodman is one of two people who have met both Trump and Kim Jong-un. The other is South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who extended the invitation from Kim to Trump during a visit to Washington this week. (Washington Post)

5/ Trump's lawyers want to trade a Trump interview with Robert Mueller in exchange for ending the Trum