The Week on Planet Trump: White House Chaos as Tillerson Goes, Dems Win and Potus Targets Mueller
Monday: Republicans Deny Russia Collusion
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have concluded their year-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Their key finding: Neither President Donald Trump nor anyone involved in his campaign colluded with Russia.
That directly contradicts the US intelligence community’s assessment from January 2017, which clearly states that Russia wanted Trump to win. It also contradicts special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for working to help Trump win by sowing divisions via the internet.
None of this is likely to satisfy Democrats on the committee, who have consistently argued that Republicans had no real intention of finding out the truth. For example, Democrats claim Republicans didn’t use the full power of the committee to subpoena documents or compel further testimony that key witnesses withheld from investigators.
Alex Ward, Vox
Tuesday: Ousted Tillerson Takes Aim at Putin
Hours before being ousted as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson called the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent in the U.K. “a really egregious act” that appears to have “clearly” come from Russia.
On his way back from a trip to Africa, Tillerson said late Monday that it was not yet known whether the poisoning "came from Russia with the Russian government's knowledge."
The comments came before President Donald Trump announced Tuesday morning that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would replace Tillerson.
Trump said he would speak with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday about the poisoning.
"As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be," he said.
Abigail Williams and Rachel Elbaum, NBC News
Wednesday: Democrats Triumph in Trump-Friendly Pennsylvania
Democrat Conor Lamb rejects the idea that his strong showing in the Pennsylvania special election is a referendum on President Donald Trump, who won the district by 20 percentage points in 2016.
"Do you think that your -- this very close race and what appears to be your narrow victory -- do you think it says something about Donald Trump?" CNN's "New Day" co-anchor Alisyn Camerota asked Lamb during an interview Wednesday morning.
"Not really, other than to say that there are plenty of people here who are still pretty supportive of him," Lamb said, acknowledging that Trump "is a popular person" in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District.
Lamb's performance is ominous for Republicans as the November midterm elections approach. Trump endorsed [Rick] Saccone and stumped for him in western Pennsylvania on Saturday night.
Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Thursday: Mueller Probes Trump Organization Finances
The New York Times has broken the news that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization for documents, the first confirmation that Mueller is examining the president’s business interests. This news came with few details, but it’s enormously significant for a couple of reasons.
First, it means that Mueller is looking right at President Trump, not just the people who worked for him or circled around him. And second, it gets to the heart of the president’s area of greatest potential legal liability: his money.
Trump may or may not have directly engaged in some kind of collusion with the Russian government in 2016. But if Mueller starts turning over rocks in his business, he’s going to find a lot of unsightly critters squirming around.
Mueller has a wide mandate. He’s charged with investigating not only Russian involvement in the 2016 election but also any other potential matters that arise from that investigation. So if he finds that, for instance, the Trump Organization was used as a conduit for money laundering from Russian mobsters, he’s going to pursue it even if it doesn’t have anything to do with 2016, and even if there’s no evidence Trump himself knew about it.
Paul Waldman, The Washington Post
Friday: Mexico Border Wall Begins to Take Shape
This week, during a visit to California, President Trump inspected eight prototypes for his proposed border wall. The president has made no secret of his intent to erect a physical barrier along the border. After touring the structures, he tweeted: “If we don’t have a wall system, we’re not going to have a country.”
But the desire to get it done doesn’t guarantee its construction. And to that end, the administration still has a long way to go before bringing the wall to fruition. Former homeland security officials told me that a project of this magnitude requires a focused White House effort, a clear plan, and funding from Congress to complete.
The prototypes, which are up to 30-feet tall, towered over the president as he spoke with Border Patrol officials on Tuesday. During his visit, Trump said he favored concrete walls because they were harder to climb, but emphasized the need for it to be see-through, which is generally preferred by agents. “We have a lousy wall over here now, but at least it stops 90, 95 percent,” he said. “When we put up the real wall, we’re going to stop 99 percent. Maybe more than that.”
Priscilla Alvarez, The Atlantic
Saturday: Ex CIA Chief Wages War of Words
The former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in a venomous tweet Saturday, accused President Trump of political corruption and warned, "America will triumph over you."
John Brennan's biting two-sentence statement came in response to a Friday evening tweet in which the president celebrated the ouster of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
"When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history," he wrote. "You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but will not destroy America... America will triumph over you."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who often is at odds with Trump, fired McCabe amid a review of the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was secretary of state.
Sean Grossman, USA Today
Sunday: Twitter Fury Takes Aim at Special Counsel
Congressional Republicans say they still support special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference even as the president continued his offensive Sunday against the investigation, as well as a recently fired high-ranking FBI official, Andrew McCabe.
Trump sent a flurry of tweets Sunday morning, in which he painted the Mueller-led special counsel probe as a politically biased witch hunt.
"Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?" Trump said. "Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!"
Mueller is a Republican who has served under presidents of both parties. Department of Justice regulations do not consider partisan affiliation when assigning employees but do stipulate that DoJ personnel in sensitive posts are not allowed to participate in political campaigns or "engage in political activity."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN's Jake Tapper that he thought Mueller was "doing a good job" and that if Trump fired him, it "would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we are a rule-of-laws nation."
Miles Parks, NPR
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