- Supreme Court allows Trump refugee ban but backs broader exemptions for relatives – The Washington Post
- FBI turns over 7,000 documents from Weiner laptop in Clinton-tied case | Fox News
Trump – 7.20.17
- Even with Trump warning, Mueller likely to probe finances – Even with Trump warning, Mueller likely to probe finances Posted: Jul 20, 2017 5:08 AM EDT Updated: Jul 20, 2017 6:48 PM EDT
- Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions – Bloomberg
- Trump set a red line for Robert Mueller. And now Mueller has reportedly crossed it. – The Washington Post
- Mueller Russia probe examines Trump business dealings – Business Insider
- With Trump and Russia, it’s all about the money – The Washington Post
- 6:18 AM 7/20/2017 – Trump warns Mueller against investigating his family’s finances beyond Russia probe – The Hill | Trump Is His Own Worst Enemy – New York Times | Trump says Comey tried to ‘leverage’ dossier: report – The Hill | Excerpts From The Times’s Interview With Trump – New York Times | Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on resignation watch | Trump rages at Sessions in New York Times interview – ABC News – Trump Investigations
- Deutsche Bank expects subpoenas over Trump-Russia investigation | Business | The Guardian
- Big German Bank, Key to Trump’s Finances, Faces New Scrutiny – The New York Times
- Excerpts From The Times’s Interview With Trump – The New York Times
- Why Not Call It Treason?
- Trump rages at Sessions in New York Times interview | Election 2016 Live | nwitimes.com
- Louise Mensch’s Donald Trump & Russia Conspiracy Theories | National Review
- Trump Is His Own Worst Enemy – The New York Times
- Trump warns Mueller against investigating his family’s finances beyond Russia probe | TheHill
- 7:12 AM 7/20/2017 – Trump Links and News: Deutsche Bank expects subpoenas over Trump-Russia investigation | Business | The Guardian | Big German Bank, Key to Trump’s Finances, Faces New Scrutiny – The New York Times – Trump Investigations
- Did Trump Intend to Fire FBI Director James Comey All Along? | HuffPost
- Trump’s favourite G20 dinner date? An authoritarian, of course | Lawrence Douglas | Opinion | The Guardian
- The Russians at Trump Tower meeting – CNNPolitics.com
- The Daily 202: Trump shows disdain for rule of law with new attacks on Sessions, Rosenstein, Mueller – The Washington Post
- Jared Kushner security clearance targeted by Debbie Wasserman Schultz – Business Insider
- Jared Kushner Keeps Making the Russia Scandal So Much Worse
- Michael Flynn Cooperating With FBI Russia Investigation, Senator Claims
- The Trumps of Russia? How billionaire Agalarov family ended up in the spotlight | World news | The Guardian
- 10:12 AM 7/20/2017 – Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices: The Trump Interview and DOJ Independence – Trump Investigations
- Former intelligence chief Clapper: Trump Jr. meeting was ‘classic, textbook Soviet and now Russian statecraft’ | TheHill
- Thursday July 20th, 2017 at 12:07 PM – Trump Investigations: Trump Links and News: Deutsche Bank expects subpoenas | AP Top News at 3:58 p.m. EDT: Russian-American at Trump Jr. meeting is ex-military officer by By ERIC TUCKER and STEPHEN BRAUN Friday July 14th, 2017 at 5:29 PM – Trump Investigations
- » Former Moscow Reporter Susan Glasser on the Books That Explain Vladimir Putin’s Russia – Freepress Online 20/07/17 12:46 from Saved Stories – None Former Moscow Reporter Susan Glasser on the Books That Explain Vladimir Putin’s Russia Freepress Online Gaddy and Hill, who is now the top Russia hand on Trump’s National Security Council, portray the enigmatic president in all the vario… – Trump Investigations
- 3:21 PM 7/20/2017 – Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions – Bloomberg | Trump set a red line for Robert Mueller. And now Mueller has reportedly crossed it. – The Washington Post | Mueller Russia probe examines Trump business dealings – Business Insider | With Trump and Russia, it’s all about the money – The Washington Post – Trump Investigations
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin). White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, center, arrives for the opening of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at the Treasury Department in Washington.
Deutsche Welle–Jun 22, 2017
Newsweek–Jun 22, 2017
The Independent–Jun 22, 2017
RT–Jun 22, 2017
» Former Moscow Reporter Susan Glasser on the Books That Explain Vladimir Putin’s Russia – Freepress Online 20/07/17 12:46 from Saved Stories – None Former Moscow Reporter Susan Glasser on the Books That Explain Vladimir Putin’s Russia Freepress Online Gaddy and Hill, who is now the top Russia hand on Trump’s National Security Council, portray the enigmatic president in all the vario…
The FBI has turned over 7,000 new documents from Anthony Weiner’s private laptop to the State Department as part of a watchdog group’s lawsuit related to last year’s Hillary Clinton email case.
Judicial Watch and State Department representatives appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday over the group’s Freedom of Information Act suit seeking Clinton emails from her tenure at the State Department.
It emerged during the hearing that the 7,000 new documents were turned over. The trove is expected to contain some emails sent by Weiner’s estranged wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told Fox News after the hearing that they expect to begin receiving those documents in three months, once the State Department determines whether the Weiner documents are government or personal records.
The State Department was ordered in November to turn over 500 pages of Clinton-related documents a month to Judicial Watch.
But Fitton is not satisfied with the speed of the process, especially now that another 7,000 documents are being added to the pile.
“This pushes this out until 2020 and beyond,” Fitton told Fox News after the hearing Thursday. “Production is slow because the legal counsel is a holdover from the Obama administration—the folks that are responsible for slow-rolling this are still here.”
According to Fitton, State Department attorneys blamed the slow “drip” of documents on a lack of resources due to President Trump’s federal hiring freeze and a supposedly “diminished public interest” in the Clinton email case since November.
The State Department told Fox News they do not comment on ongoing litigation.
“I can’t imagine the Trump White House is not interested in Clinton emails,” Fitton said. “Six months into the Trump administration and their lawyers are defending Hillary Clinton and the misconduct of the Obama administration.”
Based on the 500-page-per-month rate, Fitton does not expect to receive the Weiner laptop documents in full for more than a year “at best.”
Judicial Watch is seeking emails from Weiner’s laptop in order to find out whether Abedin was sharing sensitive government information on another non-government device. The sharing of such information was at the heart of the Clinton email investigation, after it emerged she used a personal server for government business while secretary of state.
The discovery of potentially related emails on Weiner’s computer led to the brief reopening of the case shortly before the November election. In May, Weiner, a former New York congressman, pleaded guilty in connection with a sexting case.
Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.
Houston Chronicle–2 hours ago
LawNewz–1 hour ago
Raw Story–15 hours ago
- Special counsel Robert Mueller, right, departing after a briefing with senators on his investigation.Thomson ReutersSpecial counsel Robert Mueller is expanding his investigation to look at President Donald Trump’s business dealings.
- Those dealings reportedly include Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings and the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
- Trump had warned that Mueller looking into dealings could be a “red line.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to include an examination of President Donald Trump’s business dealings, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
“FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008,” Bloomberg said, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday that Mueller would cross a line if he began digging into his finances. But in early June, Mueller began hiring lawyers with extensive experience in dealing with fraud, racketeering, and other financial crimes to help him investigate whether Trump or his associates worked with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton during the election.
The follow-the-money approach began with a money-laundering case initiated last year by Preet Bharara, at the time a US attorney, according to Bloomberg.
Mueller — who was appointed in May to lead the FBI’s probe after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey — is also homing in on money laundering and the business dealings of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, Bloomberg said.
Bayrock and Trump SoHo
One of Trump’s real-estate advisers in the early 2000s, the Russia-born businessman Felix Sater, was accused nearly two decades ago of being a co-conspirator in a $40 million fraud and money-laundering scheme involving four Mafia families. Trump worked with the real-estate firm where Sater was an executive, Bayrock Group, on at least four projects, including the Trump SoHo in Manhattan, some of which ultimately failed.
A lawsuit brought against Sater and others in 2015, which is ongoing, alleges that “for most of its existence [Bayrock] was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated,” engaging “in a pattern of continuous, related crimes, including mail, wire, and bank fraud; tax evasion; money laundering; conspiracy; bribery; extortion; and embezzlement.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2008 by Bayrock’s former finance director, Jody Kriss, who accused Sater and Bayrock’s founder, Tevfik Arif, of cheating him out of millions of dollars via fraud, money laundering, and racketeering, among other misconduct. In December, a New York judge ruled that the lawsuit could move forward as a racketeering case.
Trump SoHo. <a href=”http://trumpsohohotel.com” rel=”nofollow”>trumpsohohotel.com</a>
According to that complaint, Sater and Arif began negotiating with the Trump Organization in 2003 to market certain projects under the Trump brand, but didn’t tell Trump about Sater’s criminal past.
In a 2007 deposition, Trump said his organization never would have agreed to partner with Bayrock Group on the development of Trump SoHo had he known about Sater’s past. Trump also testified that he would not be able to identify Sater if they were standing in the same room.
Bayrock’s office was once two floors below Trump’s in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. A person familiar with the matter — who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by Sater or his associates — told Business Insider that Sater and Trump had standing meetings each week.
Sater has said in a deposition that he met with Trump “on a constant basis,” Bloomberg has reported, and Kriss told the publication that Trump valued Sater’s loyalty — and his Russia connections.
“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia,” Trump said in a 2007 deposition. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”
Sater was evidently still in touch with Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as recently as late January. The two met at a New York hotel on January 27 to discuss a peace plan for Russia and Ukraine that was drafted by a Ukrainian politician, Andrey Artemenko, The Times reported. Cohen was said to have delivered the plan directly to Michael Flynn before he resigned as national security adviser on February 13, though Cohen has disputed that in subsequent interviews.
Sater showed Ivanka Trump and her brother, Donald Jr., around Moscow in 2006 when their father was scouting real estate in Russia. They stayed for several days at the Hotel National Moscow opposite the Kremlin, according to The New York Times.
Sater also acted as a fixer to help former Kazakh cabinet minister Viktor Khrapunov buy three apartments in Trump SoHo using shell companies, the Financial Times reported. The Kazakh government has alleged that Khrapunov stole those funds from the state.
Khrapunov’s use of shell companies to buy Trump real estate was not unique — a USA Today investigation found that approximately 70% of buyers of Trump properties since June 2016 have been limited liability companies, compared with about 4% of buyers in the two years before.
Miss Universe in Moscow
Mueller is apparently interested in learning more about Trump’s relationship with Aras Agalarov, a billionaire Azerbaijani-Russian developer who paid Trump $20 million to bring his Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.
Agalarov came under renewed scrutiny earlier this month when The New York Times reported that his son, Emin, brokered a meeting between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer last June at Trump Tower. An email chain released later by Trump Jr. showed that Emin’s publicist, Rob Goldstone, had arranged the meeting on his behalf.
While in Moscow, Trump had dinner with the CEO of Russia’s largest bank, Herman Gref — a Putin ally whom Trump met, along with at least 10 other Russian businessmen and oligarchs, while he was in Moscow for the pageant.
“The Russian market is attracted to me,” Trump said shortly after the meeting. “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.”
He also tweeted: “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”
Gref recommended that Sergey Gorkov be appointed the new CEO of Vnesheconombank — a bank under US sanctions — in January 2016. Gorkov met with Kushner in December 2016 at Trump Tower for reasons that are still unknown.
Reuters reported in May that the FBI was examining whether Kushner entertained an offer from Gorkov to finance the Trump family’s business ventures in exchange for the administration relaxing or lifting economic sanctions on Russia.
Deutsche Bank and Dmitry Rybolovlev
As Trump praised and defended Russian President Vladimir Putin along the campaign trail, many questioned whether the real-estate mogul had any financial incentives — including business ties or outstanding debt — to seek better relations with Moscow.
The Washington Post has reported that “Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities” since the 1980s, “and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.” The Trump Organization is also believed to have received loans from Russia when it was struggling in the 1990s, the report said.
The family’s bank of choice has long been Deutsche Bank, which was the only bank willing to loan to Trump after he lost others money in a series of bankruptcies — something he figured “was the bank’s problem, not mine,” he wrote in his 2007 book, “Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life.”
“What the hell did I care?” Trump wrote. “I actually told one bank, ‘I told you you shouldn’t have loaned me that money. I told you the goddamn deal was no good.'”
Deutsche Bank was fined earlier this year as part of a Russian money-laundering scheme that involved its Moscow, New York, and London branches. The bank refused in June to hand over documents requested by five Democratic lawmakers related to the bank’s relationship with Trump, citing the confidentiality of nonpublic customer information. But the FBI is likely to get ahold of them.
Questions have also been raised about Trump’s relationship with Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian multibillionaire who was an early investor in one of the world’s most lucrative fertilizer companies. Rybolovlev bought a Palm Beach property from Trump for $95 million in 2008, two years after Trump had put it on the market for $125 million (after purchasing it for $41 million in 2004.)
2008 was a rough year for Trump. According to PolitiFact, that was the year Trump Entertainment Resorts missed a $53.1 million bond interest payment and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize.
Rybolovlev’s cash infusion into Trump’s bank account is believed to be the most expensive home sale in US history. At that point, big banks were highly reluctant to loan to Trump, who had lost them money.
Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort
The FBI is also examining whether Russian officials suggested to Kushner that Russian banks could finance Trump associates’ business ventures if US sanctions were lifted or relaxed, Reuters reported last month.
The possibility first came under scrutiny after Kushner met with Gorkov, the CEO of Russia’s state-owned Vnesheconombank, in December 2016. The meeting came on the heels of Kushner’s meeting with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, at Trump Tower, in which he reportedly floated the possibility of setting up a secure line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia.
Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the US to communicate, which would essentially conceal the Trump team’s interactions with Russian officials from US government scrutiny, The Washington Post reported at the time.
Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov, the struggling bank’s CEO, came as Kushner was trying to find investors for a Fifth Avenue office building in Manhattan that is set to be heavily financed by Anbang Insurance Group, a firm with ties to the Chinese government.
That deal ultimately fell through, but the Kremlin and the White House have provided conflicting explanations for why Kushner met privately with Gorkov in the first place.
Meanwhile, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, has faced questions about whether he received cash payments reportedly earmarked for him for his work with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s political party throughout the 2000s. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Manafort was in debt to pro-Russian interests as recently as last year.
Manafort has also come under scrutiny for more than a dozen bank accounts and companies he set up in Cyprus beginning in 2007 that were linked to offshore companies, NBC reported, one of which was used to receive millions of dollars from the Russian oligarch and Putin ally Oleg Deripaska.
FBI investigation widens to Trump businesses: report
Bloomberg Politics Thursday reported the FBI has expanded its investigation into the ties between President Donald Trump and the Russian government’s meddling in the 2016 election to now include Trump’s business transactions. “FBI investigators and …
Trump Rages at Jeff Sessions in New York Times InterviewNBCNews.com
Mueller widens scope of investigation to include Trump business dealings with Russia:ReportWashington Times
Mueller said to expand probe to Trump business transactionsThe Denver Post
Midland Reporter-Telegram –Firstpost
all 665 news articles »
Married to the Mob: Investigative Journalist Craig Unger on What Trump Owes the Russian Mafia
A new exposé and cover story in the September issue of the New Republic, titled “Married to theMob: What Trump Owes the Russian Mafia,” examines how the Russian mafia has used the president’s properties to launder money and hide assets. We speak …
“Trump and the Russian Money Trail”: Trump’s Ties to Oligarchs Go Back Decades
One Russia expert says the smoking gun indicating a quid pro quo between Russian money andTrump may lie with a little-known case that was abruptly settled involving a holding company linked to the Russian elite. Prevezon’s lawyer is Natalia …
Trump says Mueller could cross a ‘red line’ by digging into his finances — and he now appears to be doing just thatBusiness Insider
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business TransactionsBloomberg
Mueller reportedly looking into Trump’s family business as part of Russia probeCNBC
Axios –New York Post –The Hill
all 665 news articles »
Trump at odds with his national security team over pro-Russia moves
The Washington Post reported yesterday that Donald Trump is scrapping “the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad.” As luck would have it, that’s precisely what Vladimir Putin’s Russian …
Mueller to examine Trump business as part of Russia probe: report
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into President Trump’s business transactions as part of the ongoing probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russians who sought to influence the 2016 election, according to a Thursday report in …
Mueller reportedly looking into Trump’s family business as part of Russia probeCNBC
Trump–Russia federal investigation reportedly extending into Trump family’s businessesNew York Daily News
“Trump and the Russian Money Trail”: Trump’s Ties to Oligarchs Go Back DecadesDemocracy Now!
Washington Examiner –New York Magazine –The Independent
all 628 news articles »
Former intelligence chief Clapper: Trump Jr. meeting was ‘classic, textbook Soviet and now Russianstatecraft’
… said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball” the Russians had a “soft approach” in meeting with Trump’s eldest son. “They had two objectives here,” he told Matthews. “One was to determine whether those close to then-candidate Trump would be …
6:18 AM 7/20/2017 – Trump warns Mueller against investigating his family’s finances beyond Russia probe – The Hill | Trump Is His Own Worst Enemy – New York Times | Trump says Comey tried to ‘leverage’ dossier: report – The Hill | Excerpts From The Times’s Interview With Trump – New York Times | Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on resignation watch | Trump rages at Sessions in New York Times interview – ABC News
Washington Times–18 hours ago
CNN–16 hours ago
Breitbart News–Jul 19, 2017
In-Depth–Reuters–Jul 18, 2017
In-Depth–VICE News–21 hours ago
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says he believes former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is cooperating with the FBI’s Russia investigation. Jim Bourg/Reuters
Evidence indicates President Donald Trump’s fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is cooperating with FBI investigators, said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Monday.
“All the signals are suggesting he is already cooperating with the FBI, and may have been for some time,” the Rhode Island Democrat, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“That’s a conclusion from all of the evidence and some experience in dealing with this,” Whitehouse added.
Whitehouse spoke soon after the ranking Democrats from two House committees probing potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election expanded their investigation. In a joint letter, Representatives Elijah E. Cummings and Eliot L. Engel, the ranking Democrats on the House Government Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, requested documents from Flynn’s consulting firm concerning a trip he made to Saudi Arabia in 2015. Flynn didn’t report the trip when renewing his security clearance when he joined the Trump administration.
Flynn was fired byTrump on February 13 after just 24 days on the job. His termination came after it was revealed he misled Vice President Mike Pence about contacts he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn also lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s Kislyak and the FBI “had him dead to rights on a felony false statement,” said Whitehouse.
Whitehouse laid out his reasoning why he thinks Flynn is cooperating with the FBI. Former FBI Director James Comey “reported that one of the things the FBI does with cooperators is get them to go back and clean up areas of non-compliance,” Whitehouse said “Flynn, who will never be hired by a foreign government again, went back and cleaned up his foreign agent filings.”
In March, Flynn registered as a foreign agent, revealing that his consulting firm Flynn Intel Group Inc. received $530,000 to lobby the U.S. government on behalf of the Turkish government during the later months of the 2016 election. He also reported $45,000 he received for speaking at a 2015 event for Russian government news network RT.
Flynn is “the hole in a donut of subpoenas,” Whitehouse said, referring to several subpoenas sent by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, in May to businesses that worked on contracts with Flynn after 2014.
Whitehouse also noted that Flynn was once “one of the most talkative people in Trumpland” and has now “gone absolutely silent.”
“That is exactly what a prosecutor would strongly encourage a cooperating witness to do in order to avoid lengthy imprisonment,” he said.
Whitehouse added that if Flynn is cooperating with the FBI “it could be a huge deal, because who knows what Trump has said to him? Both during the campaign and during the early days of the presidency.”
Trump has also apparently been in touch with Flynn after he was fired “to tell him to ‘Stay strong,’” Whitehouse said, “which in some circumstances could be looked at as manipulation of a witness, or obstruction of justice.”
Trump tweeted last week that he is being investigated for obstruction of justice for firing former FBI Director Comey for continuing to pursue an investigation into Flynn and his foreign connections. The president’s lawyers disputed Trump’s tweet, saying he was merely repeating what had been reported in The Washington Post.
Flynn’s lawyer Robert Kelner did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation about whether Flynn is cooperating with the FBI.
In the first few months of the Trump administration, both the president and his political opponents placed much hope on Jared Kushner, a 36-year-old real-estate heir with no experience relevant to the job of senior White House adviser. The left hoped that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, would act as voices of reason, fighting against climate change, attacks on LGBT rights, and Steve Bannon’s general inclination to “blow things up.” Meanwhile, President Trump tasked his son-in-law with just about every thorny issue facing his administration, from rewriting U.S. trade agreements to solving the opioid epidemic to brokering peace in the Middle East.
Kushner has had a few successes (like possibly saving NAFTA) and several major failures (such as failing to prevent Trump from ditching the Paris climate accords and bungling a trip to Jerusalem). But for the Trump administration, he’s proven to be a disastrous hire largely due to his inept handling of the Russia scandal.
Back in May, Kushner was reportedly among those urging President Trump to fire FBI director James Comey. That sparked a massive, days-long crisis that culminated in the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s election meddling and the Trump camp’s potential involvement. The New York Times reported that while White House staffers ultimately decided to respond with a statement saying they welcomed the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Kushner “was one of the few dissenting voices, urging the president to counterattack.”
Later that month, Kushner was at the center of another episode in the ongoing Russia scandal when reports emerged that he tried to establish a secret backchannel between the Trump team and the Russian government in December. Several weeks later, the Washington Post reported that Mueller was looking into Kushner’s “finances and business dealings.”
At this point, Kushner can’t do much about his meetings with Russians during the campaign, or his potentially shady business dealings. However, he’s consistently tackled Russia-related issues in a manner that’s created unnecessary problems for his family members and fellow White House staffers.
While Donald Trump Jr. is currently at the eye of the “Category 5 hurricane” surrounding the White House, his emails about a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, which Kushner attended, are apparently coming to light now because of his brother-in-law.
When Kushner initially filed his application for a security clearance in January, the foreign contacts section was blank. His lawyers said this was an accident and in May they filed a revised form listing more than 100 meetings with officials from over 20 countries — but not the meeting with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. The Times reported that the emails from Don Jr. “were discovered in recent weeks by Mr. Kushner’s legal team as it reviewed documents.” The SF-86 form Kushner filed with the FBI was then updated for a third time to disclose the meeting.
CNN fleshed out the timeline on Thursday, reporting that Kushner’s lawyers provided the amended SF-86 on June 21. A few days later, Kushner’s team ignored a reporter’s question about the filing:
On June 26, CNN asked a White House spokesman assigned to Kushner about the additional meeting on the amended security clearance form, including that it was organized by Donald Trump Jr.
But Kushner’s team did not respond. On June 28, Jamie Gorelick, Kushner’s lawyer handling the issue, sent a letter to the FBI to complain about what she believed was an improper leak, according to a person close to the matter.
A source close to Kushner said his team discussed whether they should just go public with the information, but Kushner “told his lawyers he planned to sit down with the president to discuss the meeting and the email that had been discovered.” So, if true, Kushner’s instinct was to get the president more deeply involved in the handling of evidence that may be construed as proof that his campaign colluded with Russia.
The Times reported that Trump’s attorney for Russia-related matters, Marc Kasowitz, is so fed up with Kushner’s behavior that he’s considered resigning, and that sounds like the kind of thing he’s talking about:
Mr. Kasowitz and his colleagues have complained that Mr. Kushner has been whispering in the president’s ear about the Russia investigations and stories while keeping the lawyers out of the loop, according to another person familiar with the legal team. The president’s lawyers view Mr. Kushner as an obstacle and freelancer more concerned about protecting himself than his father-in-law, the person said.
It’s not clear if Kushner actually had a chat with his father-in-law about the meeting, but if so, the president has been lying about it. Trump has repeatedly said he only learned of the emails and the meeting “a couple of days ago.”
Yahoo reported on Thursday that attorneys representing the president and the Trump Organization were informed of the emails right after they were discovered by Kushner’s legal team. It’s possible that the attorneys didn’t update the president, but Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said he found that idea “weird” and “unbelievable.” “You have a professional obligation to inform the client about information that he needs to make informed decisions,” he said.
Even if Trump wasn’t personally informed, Kushner and a number of other people in his orbit were aware of the issue for weeks — yet the White House appeared caught off guard when the Times broke the story on July 8. Trump Jr.’s initial response, which required multiple follow-ups, was reportedly drafted by top Trump advisers on Air Force One as they returned from a trip to Europe.
White House staffers who didn’t inherit billions have been hesitant to get involved in Russia-related matters because they can’t afford to hire a high-priced lawyer should they be pulled into the Mueller probe. But CNN noted on Thursday that those aides may have exposed themselves to special counsel scrutiny when they scrambled to craft Trump Jr.’s response.
Nevertheless, Kushner is reportedly pushing White House staffers to get even more involved and mount a more vigorous defense. According to Politico, his argument is that the meeting impacts Trump’s presidency, so the White House should deal with it. But some people on the communication team, including Press Secretary Sean Spicer, say the issue should be left to the lawyers who were hired to handle the scandal.
Sources said Kushner was angry that the White House communications team wasn’t immediately putting surrogates on TV, issuing talking points, and calling up cable news outlets to complain about their chyrons.
“Jared wanted to get surrogates, he wanted an op-ed in the [Wall Street] Journal and the [New York] Times, and we said, ‘Wait, we have to talk through how that will play out. Who is going to say it, who is going to put their name on the op-ed and what baggage do they have?’” said an outside adviser.
Some of the turmoil, CNN reports, stems from the feeling among White House aides that the PR strategy is designed to protect Kushner, the only person mentioned in the emails who works in the White House. “Who do you have to protect? You have to protect the guy who filled out the form saying I never took this meeting,” one source said.
But according to Axios, Kushner’s view is that the Trump administration can squash the whole controversy over Trump Jr.’s emails with a bit of good PR — and peace in the Middle East.
The view in Kushner’s orbit is that the brutal new revelations are more P.R. problems than legal problems. And if he makes progress with his Middle East peace efforts, perceptions would be very different.
So far he’s been wrong about firing Comey, ignoring legal advice, failing to prepare a coherent response, and creating new questions about who knew what, and when they knew it. But hey, he’s Jared Kushner. If he can’t make this Russia scandal blow over, nobody can.
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida introduced a pair of amendments aimed at stripping White House senior adviser Jared Kushner of his security clearance into a 2018 appropriations bill that were voted down Thursday.
The amendments came as Kushner found himself under renewed scrutiny after his participation in a June 2016 meeting that involved Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was revealed.
Wasserman Schultz’s amendments, which did not make it through the Republican-controlled Appropriations Committee, received 22 yes votes and 30 no tallies. The text of the amendments was provided to Business Insider prior to their introduction.
“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to issue, renew, or maintain a security clearance for any individual in a position in the Executive Office of the President who is under a criminal investigation by a federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government,” read the first amendment from Wasserman Schultz, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to issue, renew, or maintain a security clearance for any individual in a position in the Executive Office of the President who deliberately fails, as determined by the issuing department or agency, to disclose in the Standard Form 86 [the security clearance form] of such individual a meeting with a foreign national if such disclosure is required for such form,” read the second.
While discussing the second amendment, Wasserman Schultz pointed to Kushner having had to make multiple revisions to his security clearance form.
“Mr. Kushner didn’t only leave out a couple of meetings, he’s had to amend his form three times, with over 100 meetings with foreign nationals,” Wasserman Schultz said, adding that some of those individuals “were with the state of Russia, an enemy state. Specifically designed to aid his father-in-law’s campaign and assist him in being elected president of the United States.”
Republican Rep. John Culberson of Texas called the amendments “utterly unnecessary” and a “political stunt” after they were introduced.
“We have to leave these decisions in the hands of security professionals, who make these decisions on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “There are guidelines in place that make it clear that an individual is ineligible for a security clearance if they meet any one of 13 guidelines. These are used by all federal agencies already, including the FBI, which does security clearances for everyone in the government, including the White House.”
A handful of Democrats spoke up to push for the Wasserman Schultz amendments.
Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California said the amendments were especially pertinent after the Trump Tower meeting was revealed.
“At a minimum, White House staff who are under investigation should not have access to classified information,” she said.
Wasserman Schultz introduced the amendments to the 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Financial Services Appropriations Bills.
Kushner is the only current White House staffer who was present for the meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Emails released Tuesday showed Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton that he claimed was never actually presented.
Trump Jr. posted emails that were forwarded to Kushner and Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, setting up that meeting. Democrats and Republicans have subsequently questioned why Kushner still has a security clearance.
The deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders,did not tell reporters at Wednesday’s off-camera briefing whether Kushner still held that clearance, saying Democrats “are trying to play political games” by calling for it to be revoked.
Jared Kushner.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
It’s not the first time Kushner’s security clearance has come under question.
Kushner had to revise his security clearance form after he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US and a Russian banker, which led to The New York Times‘ discovery of the Trump Tower meeting involving Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, and the Russian lawyer. Additionally, the House and Senate intelligence committees and Department of Justice investigators are looking into whether the Kushner-led Trump campaign digital operation assisted Russia’s attacks on Clinton during the 2016 election cycle.
Though Veselnitskaya told NBC News that Kushner “left the meeting after seven to 10 minutes of the 20- to 30-minute meeting,” these incidents — with the Trump Jr. meeting now at center stage — have led to calls for Kushner to be stripped of the clearance.
Trump Jr.’s “preemptive release of the emails that led to the meeting with the Russian operative puts Jared Kushner in legal peril,” Rick Tyler, the communications director for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign who is now an MSNBC contributor, told Business Insider in an email. “He has consistently failed to make mandatory discloses of meetings with foreign nationals including this one which is a felony.”
“Jared should, at a minimum, have his clearances rescinded making his utility as an advisor, which itself is suspect, impractical,” he continued.
The email disclosure revealed that Kushner was copied on Trump Jr.’s email chain with Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who represented a Russian pop star with ties to President Donald Trump and was tasked with arranging the June meeting. The email chain was titled “Russia — Clinton — private and confidential” and said a Russian official had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to” Trump.
Goldstone described the information as being “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” something that prompted Trump Jr. to respond, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
The fact that Kushner had the email chain available to him seemed to contradict an earlier statement from Trump Jr., who said over the weekend that Kushner and Manafort were told “nothing of the substance” of the meeting when he asked them to attend.
“Mr. Kushner’s decision to take this meeting raises significant questions about his judgment and his respect for the very principles that our democracy was founded on — that our elections should be sacred and free of interference from a foreign adversary,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democratic member of the House oversight committee, told Business Insider in an email.
He added: “His reported failure to disclose this meeting — and numerous others with Russians — when he submitted his security clearance application compounds the problem and is deeply concerning.”
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump laced into the attorney general, deputy attorney general, acting FBI director, former FBI director and the special counsel in an interview yesterday with the New York Times that, even by Trump standards, is remarkable.
The transcript of the 50-minute session in the Oval Office oozes with brooding grievance and reflects the degree to which he has adopted a bunker mentality. It also underscores how much Robert Mueller’s escalating investigation bothers and preoccupies the president six months into his term.
Perhaps most importantly, Trump’s comments raise a host of new questions about his respect for the independence of the Justice Department, FBI and special counsel.
The president asserted his prerogative to order an FBI director to end any investigation for any reason at any time. He denied telling James Comey that he “hoped” the FBI could lay off its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. “I didn’t say anything,” Trump said. “But … even if I did, that’s not — other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying — they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: ‘It’s ended. It’s over. Period.’” (He didn’t specify who he meant by “they.”)
“Nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along,” Trump added. “Out of courtesy, the FBI started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official. There was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. … And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.”
This fits with a pattern of the president caring little about norms, precedents and traditions — all important guardrails in a constitutional republic that depends on a president putting the national interest above self-interest.
What you need to know about the Jeff Sessions recusal
The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian brings us up to speed on Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from all investigations into the 2016 presidential campaign. The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian brings us up to speed on Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from all investigations into the 2016 presidential campaign. (Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)
— The headline out of the interview is Trump saying he never would have appointed Jeff Sessions to be AG if he had known ahead of time that he’d recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He blames the recusal, not his own decision to fire Comey, for the appointment of Mueller.
Trump called it “very unfair to the president” for Sessions to hand off control of the Russia investigation to Rod Rosenstein, who it must be noted the president had appointed to be No. 2 at DOJ. But in Trump’s own telling, he had not given any thought to Rosenstein’s selection until after Sessions stepped aside. Then he was irritated to learn that he came from Baltimore. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” Trump said. (Couldn’t the same thing be said of New York City?)
“A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case,” Trump grumbled. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else. … It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”
— This is a fresh example of Trump not being loyal to people who have sacrificed their personal reputations for his benefit. Few people have been more devoted to Trump than Sessions, and like so many others he’s gotten burned for it. He no longer has the confidence of the president, and it’s hard to see how he can survive for very long or be that effective in this job without it. He gave up a safe Senate, but his tenure has been marked by scandal and allegations that he perjured himself.
— Trump’s attacks on Rosenstein are notable because the deputy AG has actually gone out of his way to publicly demonstrate loyalty to the president. His legacy will forever be clouded by his assent to Trump’s request that he write up a memo coming up with a pretext to fire Comey. Just yesterday, Rosenstein gave an interview to Fox News that seemed almost exclusively intended to ingratiate himself with his boss. In it, he chided Comey for orchestrating the leak of memos about his conversations with the president. “We take confidentiality seriously, so when we have memoranda about our ongoing matters, we have an obligation to keep that confidential,” Rosenstein said. “I think it is quite clear. It’s what we were taught, all of us as prosecutors and agents.”
— Trump also said he doesn’t want Mueller to investigate his family’s finances. He said this would cross a red line, but he would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia,” the president told Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman.
— There is irony that Trump complained at length to the Times that Sessions recused himself because of conflicts of interest, but then in the very next breath he accused Mueller of being unable to run an impartial investigation because he has conflicts of interest. The president noted that he interviewed Mueller to replace Comey as FBI director shortly before he was named special counsel, and that members of the team he’s assembled have previously contributed to Democrats. “He was up here and he wanted the job,” Trump said of Mueller, a former FBI director. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. … There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
— He expressed no regrets about firing Comey: “I did a great thing for the American people,” Trump said multiple times. He accused Comey of giving him a heads up before the inauguration about an unsubstantiated dossier of derogatory information about him in order to get leverage. “In retrospect,” the president said. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.”
— Trump also attacked acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, noting that his wife’s 2015 campaign for Virginia state Senate received half a million bucks from Terry McAuliffe’s PAC.
— Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the special counsel are declining to comment on the Times story. Comey also declined to comment when the Times asked for reaction to Trump’s latest claims.
— Many prominent people, including conservative lawyers and DOJ veterans, were aghast at the audacity of Trump’s comments to the Times. Here’s a taste of the reaction online overnight:
From the former chief ethics lawyer in George W. Bush’s White House (and now a law professor at the University of Minnesota):
From a conservative fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised several GOP presidential campaigns:
From the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who got fired by Trump under suspicious circumstances after being asked to stay on:
From a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of DOJ and FBI:
From a former official in Obama’s Justice Department:
From a highly respected professor of constitutional law at Harvard:
From The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent:
From the Capitol bureau chief for Politico:
From a senior editor at NBC News:
An important point by one of The Post’s DOJ beat reporters:
From a WaPo investigative reporter who covered Maryland in her early years at the paper:
A lot of liberals made jokes about Trump’s comment that Mueller shouldn’t look into his personal finances:
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
McCain diagnosed with brain tumor
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)
— John McCain’s office announced last night that the Arizona senator has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Sean Sullivan, Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane report: “The Mayo Clinic said doctors diagnosed a tumor called a glioblastoma after surgery to remove a blood clot above McCain’s left eye last week. The senator and his family are considering treatment options, including a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, according to the hospital. McCain, 80, has been away from the Senate this week, recovering from the surgery and undergoing tests. His office issued a statement describing him ‘in good spirits’ and noting that his doctors say his underlying health is excellent — but not indicating when he will return to the Senate. Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of brain cancer, and the prognosis for this kind of cancer is generally poor. … McCain’s significance inside Congress is hard to overstate — and his absence, however long, will reverberate across the Capitol.”
— Laurie McGinley, Lena H. Sun and Lenny Bernstein have answers to five critical questions about McCain’s type of cancer: “Glioblastoma … is a highly lethal malignancy that killed Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Beau Biden, the son of former vice president Joseph Biden. … Glioblastoma is an aggressive cancer that is the most common of all malignant brain tumors. … Depending on the location of the tumor, a patient can have seizures, headaches, blurred vision and confusion. … Often, patients and their families recognize symptoms only in retrospect. … Indeed, looking back, McCain’s tangled questioning last month of former FBI director James B. Comey … seems to hold more potent meaning. … The median survival time following treatment is about 12 to 16 months, experts said. But that varies considerably[.] … Up to 30 percent of patients live past the two-year mark, and 10 percent live more than five years.” (Kennedy died less than 15 months after his glioblastoma was discovered.)
— Carrier Corp. will eliminate more than 330 jobs at its Indianapolis furnace factory today — coinciding, to the day, with Trump’s six-month mark in office. The Indianapolis Star reports: “An agreement brokered after the election by Trump … resulted in a commitment from Carrier to keep the plant open for 10 years. Despite the agreement, Carrier is still moving its fan coil production from Indianapolis to Mexico. … Although Trump and Pence have been credited with saving Carrier’s Indianapolis factory … employees don’t feel much security.” (“Made in America Week” is going just swimmingly …)
GET SMART FAST:
- Missouri Republicans are coalescing around the state’s Attorney General Josh Hawley to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill next year. Hawley is considered a conservative up-and-comer, having just been elected Missouri’s AG last year. (AP)
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray reportedly plans to run for governor of Ohio next year. Congressional Republicans, who have loudly complained about Cordray’s role on the CFPB, would welcome his departure. (Politico)
- Trump has declined an invitation to speak at the NAACP’s annual convention. The NAACP only found out about his decision after it was announced by his deputy press secretary. (AP)
- The Justice Department announced a new federal policy to help state and local police take cash and property from people suspected of a crime even without a criminal charge, reversing an Obama administration rule prompted by past police abuse. (Sari Horwitz)
- The House Transportation Committee’s top Democrat is asking the Coast Guard to reverse a policy of kicking boaters off the Potomac River when President Trump is at his Virginia golf course. (Peter Jamison)
- Rep. Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter on the eve of his election, is resisting a court order to get fingerprinted and photographed at a local jail. (HuffPost)
- A Republican state senator in Iowa called on his GOP colleague, Bill Dix, to resign as majority leader following a sexual harassment case that awarded $2.2 million in damages to a former caucus staff member. (Des Moines Register)
- For the first time in almost seven years, pay increases for the lowest-income Americans outpaced all other groups. Weekly earnings for the group rose 3.4 percent compared to last year. (Wall Street Journal)
- Felicity Jones is slated to portray Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a forthcoming biopic. The news puts to rest the longtime rumor that the Supreme Court justice would be portrayed by Natalie Portman. (Forbes)
- A 21-year-old woman became the youngest patient ever to receive a full facial transplant. During the 31-hour procedure, which is among the rarest operations in the world, surgeons transplanted 100 percent of a donor’s facial tissue — including eyelids, facial nerves and muscle. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- A significant portion of people being treated for Alzheimer’s may not actually have the disease. Researchers in California used PET scans to test thousands of patients for the presence of amyloid plaques — one of two hallmarks of the disease — and found that just 54 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment and 71 percent of dementia patients had the plaques. Their findings could change the way doctors diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s. (Tara Bahrampour)
- A family of five said it was kicked off a JetBlue flight last month, without explanation, after their toddler began kicking another passenger’s seat. But the parents said they quickly apologized to the other passenger — who allegedly responded with a derogatory slur, and suggested they “tie [the] baby’s feet down.” (Lindsey Bever)
- The University of Central Florida suspended a student for tweeting out his ex’s apology letter. Nick Lutz had taken a red pen to the letter to correct spelling and grammar mistakes and gave it a grade of D-. The image of the letter went viral, and Lutz’s lawyer now says that UCF violated his freedom of speech by suspending him over it. (Katie Mettler)
Trump is shutting down a secret CIA program in Syria
In a move that reflects his interest in working with Russia, President Trump has decided to end a covert CIA program supporting Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. In a move that Russia is likely to welcome, President Trump has decided to end a covert CIA program supporting Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. (The Washington Post)
“PUTIN WINS IN SYRIA:”
— “Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia,” Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous scoop. “Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power. … After the Trump-(Vladimir) Putin meeting, the United States and Russia announced an agreement to back a new cease-fire in southwest Syria, along the Jordanian border, where many of the CIA-backed rebels have long operated.”
- “This is a momentous decision,” said a current official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program. “Putin won in Syria.”
- “We are falling into a Russian trap,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, who focuses on the Syrian resistance. “We are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable. … We are really cutting them off at the neck.”
“Toward the end of the Obama administration, some officials advocated ending the CIA program, arguing that the rebels would be ineffective without a major escalation in U.S. support. But the program still had the support of a majority of top Obama advisers, who argued that the United States couldn’t abandon its allies on the ground and give up on the moderate opposition because of the damage that it would do to U.S. standing in the region. Even those who were skeptical about the program’s long-term value, viewed it as a key bargaining chip that could be used to wring concessions from Moscow in negotiations over Syria’s future. ‘People began thinking about ending the program, but it was not something you’d do for free,’ said a former White House official. ‘To give [the program] away without getting anything in return would be foolish.’”
— Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu revealed on a hot mic that Israel has struck Iran-backed fighters in Syria “dozens” of times. The Israeli leader’s comment was picked up on a hot mic during a closed-door meeting with Eastern European leaders in Budapest. (Adam Taylor)
What’s at stake for Kushner, Trump Jr. and Manafort in their upcoming Senate hearings
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are scheduled to appear before Senate committees next week. Here’s what’s at stake for them. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are scheduled to appear before Senate committees next week. Here’s what’s at stake for them. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Jared Kushner will speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee next Monday during a closed door session. Karoun Demirjian and Ashley Parker report: “The interview comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee also announced its intention to have former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. testify in open session July 26. … Kushner, Manafort and Trump Jr. are expected to be asked about several reported contacts they and other Trump surrogates had with Russian officials during the campaign and transition period. In particular, they are expected to be grilled about their participation in the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer[.]”
— Trump’s two-decades-long relationship with Deutsche Bank is coming under increasing scrutiny. The New York Times’ Ben Protess, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker report: “Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele[.] … The regulators want to know if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks. Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts[.] … And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to [Mueller], the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. It was not clear what information the bank might ultimately provide. Generally, the bank is seen as central to understanding Mr. Trump’s finances since it is the only major financial institution that continues to conduct sizable business with him.”
— Ian Bremmer, who first reported the news of Trump’s second, undisclosed meeting with Putin, lays out five big issues with it in a Time Magazine column: “That second meeting took place between Trump, Putin, and a Russian interpreter. … [Which] is a breach of protocol, though Trump could clearly care less. Much more concerning is the fact that the entire conversation between the two heads of state is predicated on the trustworthiness and abilities of the Russian translator — a translator who owes his allegiance to Putin and Putin alone. For all we know, Trump may have been having a completely different conversation than the one he thought he was having …
“This meeting doesn’t officially matter, which makes it matter more[:] We’ve already gotten conflicting accounts of what happened in the first, official meeting … [and the readout] was relatively light … But there have been interesting developments since then. The U.S. and Russia have been in talks about the possible return of two Russian properties suspected of being used in surveillance activities … Just this week, the Russian foreign ministry insisted on the ‘unconditional return’ of these properties. That’s a particularly bold demand. It makes one wonder if more details of the exchange were discussed in a pull-aside or this second meeting. While the world has been focused on discovering the contents of the first meeting, it’s the second meeting that may be most revealing, precisely because it wasn’t supposed to matter at all. And the lack of information about the second meeting makes information on the first meeting largely irrelevant.”
— Some of Trump’s top national security advisers are running out of patience with the president’s embrace of Russia. AP’s Vivian Salama reports: “[Trump] has pushed for cooperation between Moscow and Washington on various matters including the raging conflict in Syria. But some top aides, including National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster, have been warning that Putin is not to be trusted. … The three foreign officials who have spoken with top Trump advisers described a disconnect, or ‘mixed signals,’ between Trump and his team over Russia, highlighting a lack of a clear policy. … [During the Putin meeting,] foreign and U.S. officials said the Russians recommended that a note taker be present in the bare-bones official bilateral meeting. But Trump, who has repeatedly expressed concern over leaks, refused[.]”
— A top aide to Russia-friendly Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has been ousted for his role in a trip to Moscow last year. The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reports: Paul “Behrends accompanied Rohrabacher on a 2016 trip to Moscow in which Rohrabacher said he received anti-Magnitsky Act materials from prosecutors. … Rohrabacher’s meeting in Moscow was an object of concern for embassy officials, who had warned the delegation about [Russian security] presence in Moscow—warnings Rohrabacher brushed off. … Behrends is a controversial figure on the Hill, where he is seen by some who have worked with or around him as egging on Rohrabacher’s pro-Russia instincts.”
Trump and GOP senators try to revive health-care push
President Trump hosted Senate Republicans at the White House, July 19, to renew efforts to revamp the Affordable Care Act following failed attempts. President Trump hosted Senate Republicans at the White House, July 19, to renew efforts to revamp the Affordable Care Act following failed attempts.(Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
HEALTH-CARE ROLLER COASTER CONTINUES:
— The president implored Republican senators to resurrect their collapsed negotiations. Sean Sullivan, Kelsey Snell and David Nakamura report: “Trump’s remarks, at a lunch with 49 Republican senators, prompted some of them to reopen the possibility of trying to vote on the sweeping legislation they abandoned earlier this week. But there was no new evidence that the bill could pass. At the lunch, the president also threatened electoral consequences for senators who oppose him, suggesting that Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) could lose his reelection bid next year if he does not back the effort. The president also invited conservative opposition against anyone else who stands in the way. … Trump’s remarks introduced a new level of chaos into the GOP, potentially setting up Senate Republicans to take the blame from angry conservatives for failing to fulfill a long-standing GOP vow …
“Vice President Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services director Seema Verma met with roughly two dozen GOP senators for nearly three hours on Capitol Hill on Wednesday evening. The meeting was arranged by the White House to help persuade wavering senators to back the repeal-and-replace bill … Following the meeting, several senators described the talks as productive, but none would name specific areas of progress or new agreement that resulted from the gathering.”
The conventional wisdom on the Hill remains that, despite the venting session, they’re still nowhere close to getting 50 GOP senators to vote for something.
— Further complicating the effort, the Congressional Budget Office said last night that the amendment Mitch McConnell has pledged to bring up for a floor vote next week to fully repeal Obamacare would leave 32 million additional Americans uninsured if it got enacted. Amy Goldstein reports: “That would bring the total number of people without coverage to 59 million. The analysis also estimates that premiums for individual policies would rise by 25 percent next year if the number of people buying such policies plummets and concentrates sicker people in that insurance pool. The forecast by Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeepers is similar, though not identical, to updated estimates from January that they issued of the repeal-only legislation that passed the House and the Senate in late 2015 before being vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.”
— But on the House side, the Freedom Caucus is agitating for a repeal-only vote to pressure congressional leadership. Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Rachael Bade report: “Their effort is unlikely to result in a bill landing on Trump’s desk … But if the group garners enough signatures to trigger the floor vote, it would force many mainstream and moderate Republican lawmakers into the uncomfortable position of rejecting a repeal measure they backed just two years ago.”
— Meanwhile, HHS gave a very favorable review of Ted Cruz’s amendment — but to the utter bafflement of many health-care experts, who think the administration is fudging the numbers. Axios’s David Nather reports: “[An HHS analysis] says [Cruz’s] insurance deregulation provision in the Senate health care bill would lower premiums, both for people in traditional Affordable Care Act plans and in less regulated plans that wouldn’t meet its standards. But that’s almost the exact opposite of what most experts, as well as actuaries and the main health insurance trade groups, say would happen. Health care analysts and economists are criticizing the HHS report for being secretive about its assumptions, which are usually disclosed so outside experts can see how they arrived at their conclusions. They also note that HHS assumes huge premium increases under the current ACA, without explaining why.”
— Protesters continue to flock to Capitol Hill to oppose any repeal of Obamacare. At least 155 demonstrators were arrested at Senate office buildings yesterday for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.” (Clarence Williams)
— Meanwhile, activists on the other end of the political spectrum are imploring Republican senators to vote for the health-care overhaul for the sake of Trump. David Weigel reports: “From Tuesday night through the announcement of yet another Republican meeting on their repeal bills, pundits and outside groups cast senators as ‘traitors’ if they did not deliver a victory for the president. … On the right, the final repeal push has been framed as a rematch of Trump’s 2016 victory — a chance for Republicans to go with their president, or reveal themselves as sellouts. Coverage of the health-care fight on Fox News, which had occasionally vanished from prime time, returned Tuesday night in the form of attacks on congressional failure. … Trump’s Wednesday speech at the White House was portrayed as the president trying to save Republicans from themselves.”
— A new Fox News poll shows that, if McConnell’s efforts fall short, 74 percent of voters want him to work with Democrats to reach a compromise. That includes 59 percent of Republicans. (Fox News’s Dana Blanton)
What you need to know about the House GOP budget plan
The House GOP budget draft paves the way for a potential $203 billion rollback of financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending and more. Here’s what you need to know about the plan. The House GOP budget draft paves the way for a potential $203 billion rollback of financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending and more. Here’s what you need to know about the plan. (Elyse Samuels, Monica Akhtar, Osman Malik/The Washington Post)
— Meanwhile, Republican House leaders have downsized their hopes of passing appropriations bills before the August recess. Mike DeBonis reports: “Republican leaders announced Tuesday that they plan to bring a package of 2018 spending bills to a vote next week. It would probably be the last item passed in the chamber before members depart for a five-week summer recess. But in the latest instance in which the House GOP has flinched from the basic responsibilities of governing, that package is set to include only four of the 12 yearly appropriations bills. That has exposed tensions inside the GOP over how its leaders have approached the annual spending cycle.”
— When it comes to the budget, it looks like congressional Republicans (once again) just don’t have the votes. Politico’s Rachael Bade and Sarah Ferris report: “After weeks of delays and false starts, House Republicans were expected to advance their fiscal blueprint through committee on Wednesday night. But they’re far from the 218 votes needed to pass it on the floor, according to multiple GOP aides and lawmakers. With only one week until the House leaves for the August recess, it looks increasingly likely that Republicans will punt once again on the most fundamental task of governing: passing a budget.Missing that deadline will leave the GOP exposed to criticism at home and undermines its chances of moving on to another key agenda item. ‘This is the tax reform budget,’ said Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas).”
The many trials and tweets of Trump’s travel ban
President Trump’s travel ban has been challenged in court at every turn. Now the Supreme Court is allowing a limited version to take effect, but with an expanded list of familial exemptions. The Supreme Court is allowing a limited version of President Trump’s travel ban to take effect as it gears up to hear the case in the fall. (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
IMMIGRATION BATTLES CONTINUE:
— “The Supreme Court on Wednesday once again compromised on [Trump’s] travel ban, saying the government may enforce tightened restrictions on refugees for now but also must allow into the country more travelers from six mostly Muslim countries who have family members already here,” Robert Barnes reports. “The short order from the court means that the administration must continue to accept those with grandparents, aunts and uncles and other relatives in the United States. The court’s action on Wednesday had two parts. In one, it said it will not disturb a lower court’s decision that expanded the definition of close family ties. … But in another, it granted the government’s request to put on hold a part of the decision that would have made it easier for more refugees to enter the country. The unsigned, one-paragraph order gave no reasoning for either decision. Three justices — [Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch] — said they would have granted the administration’s request to put the entire order on hold.”
— Airline passengers flying to the United States from Mexico will now be subject to additional security checks for electronic devices larger than a cellphone. The newly implemented security measures were first announced by DHS secretary John Kelly last month. (CNN)
— “Critics often dismiss Trump as a chief executive uninterested in the policy process, unwilling to delve into minutiae and impatient with the pace of governing. … But on immigration … the 45th president has been heavily engaged in the administration’s roiling debate,” Ashley Parker, David Nakamura and Philip Rucker report in a deep dive. “Officials credit him for being relentless in framing illegal immigration as a threat to public safety and to the economic security of American workers, and for turning a border wall into a populist rallying cry. This portrait of Trump as a policymaker at the six-month mark of his presidency … shows a president driven by gut feelings, happy to mostly skim the surface but occasionally engrossed in details. Advisers said the president has strong, instinctual opinions on broad issues but is open to persuasion on details …
“Trump is torn over how to address the status of the younger immigrants, who were brought to the country illegally by their parents … [but] by contrast, [he] is far more certain about the wall. The structure could change in design or function — he vowed to build a much longer and higher wall during the campaign — but his security argument for it has remained constant.”
Trump: ‘We have to protect the integrity of the vote’
President Trump made remarks on July 19 at the first meeting of his commission investigating his allegations of voter fraud during the 2016 election. President Trump made remarks on July 19 at the first meeting of his commission investigating his allegations of voter fraud during the 2016 election.(Reuters)
ABOUT THAT PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMISSION ON ELECTION INTEGRITY:
— “Trump, who has repeatedly asserted without evidence that illegally cast ballots cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton, told his election integrity commission Wednesday to proceed with ‘a very open mind and with no conclusions already drawn,’” John Wagner and Mark Berman report. “Trump stopped short of asking the 12-member panel to prove his claim about widespread vote fraud in the 2016 election — a fact that the panel’s vice chairman and driving force, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), told reporters was telling. … Kobach later told MSNBC that ‘we may never know’ whether Clinton actually won the popular vote. He said the commission will try to determine the extent of fraudulent voting last year but has no way to know whether illegally cast ballots helped Clinton or Trump more.”
Trump attacked the states that are not turning over data: “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they are worried about. And I ask the vice president, I ask the commission, what are they worried about? There’s something, there always is.” (I wrote earlier this month that many of those who are refusing to comply are principled conservatives who genuinely believe in federalism.)
— The commission’s request for states’ voter data led to a small number of Americans canceling their voter registration, alarming liberal activists. Politico’s Diamond Naga Siu reports: “Colorado got a burst of publicity after more than 3,700 residents canceled voter registrations, according to media reports. And while that’s a tiny percentage of total voters in the state, activists said it’s the wrong response to the federal government’s request for state voter information. ‘We don’t want people to be afraid of registering — not to do so is to play into the hands of the voter suppressors,’ said Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado. ‘To the thousands of people who have deregistered: go reregister and bring two others.’”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
— “U.S. officials fell short of securing ambitious gains in trade with China in a meeting Wednesday and news conferences planned to cap off the event were canceled as the two countries wrapped up 100 days of trade talks,” Ana Swanson reports. “The United States unsuccessfully pressed China to make a substantial commitment to cut its steel production, according to people with knowledge of the matter[.] … U.S. officials also asked China to do more to reduce its trade surplus with the United States and open its market for agriculture, financial services and data flows, the people said. In a terse statement released after the talks, the Treasury Department said that China had ‘acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit which both sides will work cooperatively to achieve.’”
— The U.S., Canada and Mexico have agreed to move quickly on a NAFTA renegotiation, hoping to be done by early 2018 before Mexico’s presidential elections. Reuters’ Anthony Esposito and David Ljunggren report: “The plan is to hold seven rounds of talks at three-week intervals, according to two Mexican officials … Negotiators fear the renegotiation process could become a political punching bag in Mexico due to President Donald Trump’s repeated swipes at Mexico.”
— The administration is trying to accelerate its plans to cut hundreds of government regulations, which have gotten off to a slow start. Damian Paletta reports: “On Thursday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is planning to release a list of rules it plans to weaken or eliminate. The list will note that 469 proposals that were in the works during the Obama administration have been scrapped, and another 391 have been slowed. The administration is not releasing a full list of which regulations it’s targeting until Thursday, but they will run the gamut from significant policy measures to minor procedural measures.”
— “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moving rapidly to promote American production of coal, oil and gas — a critical piece of President Trump’s vision for ‘making America great again,’” Juliet Eilperin reports. “In the past few weeks alone, Zinke has lowered the price companies must pay the government for offshore drilling; acted to accelerate approval for onshore drilling permits; approved exploratory drilling in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea; and scheduled lease sales on Western lands the Obama administration had deemed off limits. And Zinke’s moves have immediate impact. While Trump’s ambitious plans to overhaul the tax code and renegotiate international trade pacts remain far off, and his campaign to roll back environmental regulations will take months to produce results for industry, Zinke is taking concrete action to deliver on one of Trump’s most important campaign promises.”
Callista Gingrich testifies to be U.S. ambassador to the Vatican
Callista Gingrich, wife of former House speaker Newt Gingrich, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee July 18, as President Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Callista Gingrich, Trump’s pick for ambassador to the Vatican, gets a nomination hearing. (Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
— Callista Gingrich, Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, had her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday. Post columnist Dana Milbank writes that Gingrich’s nomination “stinks to high heaven:” “Sen. Ron Johnson introduced [Gingrich] by noting that she was valedictorian of her high school class. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who succeeded Newt [Gingrich, Callista’s husband] in the House before moving to the Senate, declared that ‘one of her great, great persuasive talents is to not only convince Newt to marry her, but convert him to Catholicism.’ … All presidents reward supporters with patronage. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson will be our man in London. On Gingrich’s panel Tuesday was George Glass, a big Trump donor, tapped to be ambassador to Portugal though he doesn’t speak Portuguese. But the choice of Callista Gingrich is another category of cronyism for an administration populated by friends and relations rather than appointees of merit … yet Republicans in Congress have been unwilling to say that this is unacceptable.”
— Senate Republicans are slated to vote today to confirm a blogger who has compared abortion to slavery to an appellate court. HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery reports: “That’s just one of the questionable comments that John Bush, [Trump’s] nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, made on a blog he maintained for years under a pseudonym, G. Morris. He also called for gagging then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi … applauded critics of same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and celebrated ‘the witch is dead’ when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.”
— Trump has nominated a talk radio host and climate change skeptic to the Agriculture Department’s top scientific post. Juliet Eilperin and Chris Mooney report: “[Sam] Clovis, whose expected nomination has been previously reported by The Washington Post and several other outlets, is a former economics professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, who served as one of Trump’s first campaign policy advisers. In a 2014 interview with Iowa Public Radio, he said he was ‘extremely skeptical’ about climate change and added that ‘a lot of the science is junk science.’ … Furthermore, the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist is also tasked with administering its policies to ensure ‘scientific integrity’ in the department, which means examining whether any abuses or misuses of science may have occurred in the agency.”
— Joel Clement, who served as the Interior Department’s director of the Office of Policy Analysis until last week, wrote a buzzy op-ed for The Post about working under this administration: “I am not a member of the deep state. I am not big government. I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, as of today, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science.”
— The president is also expected to nominate Mark Esper as secretary of the Army. Washington Examiner’s Jamie McIntyre reports: “Esper is a West Point graduate, former aide to Sens. Chuck Hagel and Bill Frist, and a Raytheon executive. His pending nomination follows the withdrawal of two previous nominees to be the Army’s top civilian: billionaire Vincent Viola and Tennessee State Sen. Mark Green. Pentagon officials privately expressed confidence that Esper, with his military, Pentagon and Capitol Hill experience, will win quick Senate confirmation. He serves as Raytheon’s vice president of government relations.”
- From The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel: “Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has expressed concern at the number of defense contractor executives being chosen by the Trump administration. He raised the issue in [deputy Defense Secretary Patrick] Shanahan’s confirmation hearing and later told reporters he does not want Trump to nominate anyone else from the top five defense contractors.” (Raytheon is one of those top five firms.)
— But some of the administration’s picks are balking at the financial and time commitments required to receive confirmation for top posts. Politico’s Andrew Restuccia reports: “At least a dozen people in line for top jobs in the Trump administration have dropped out, with many expressing irritation at requirements that they give up valuable assets to resolve perceived conflicts, according to lawyers and people closely tracking the nominations process.”
President Trump’s top 5 misleading claims, so far
Six months into President Trump’s term, he has made 836 misleading claims, averaging 4.6 per day.Six months into President Trump’s term, he has made 836 misleading claims, averaging 4.6 per day.(Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
HAS IT ONLY BEEN SIX MONTHS?
— The Post’s fact checking team calculates that, as of this morning, Trump has made at least 830 demonstrably false or misleading claims since he took office. That’s an average of about five per day, including weekends. “As president, Trump has already earned 20 Four-Pinocchio ratings — and a total of 152 Pinocchios,” Glenn Kessler, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Meg Kelly report. (Check out The Trump Promise Tracker here.)
— “6 months in, Trump’s presidency is teetering on the brink of disaster,” by CNN’s Chris Cillizza: “The collapse of health care reform in the Senate on Monday night is a fitting coda to President Donald Trump’s first six months in office, a tenure that has lurched from controversy to controversy and now appears to be on the verge of tilting directly into the political abyss.”
— “It’s Been Six Months With Trump. Are You Tired of Winning Yet?” by the Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis: “He hasn’t passed any legislation — and his first six months have been drama-filled and controversial. But despite the hand-wringing and worry his tenure has spawned among the chattering classes, the world hasn’t ended. That might sound like the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations.’ But in this day and age, I’ll take it.”
— “[Trump’s] ascendancy has reverberated across a workforce of 2.1 million civil servants, upending their sense of mission or empowering it, depending on where they sit,” Lisa Rein reports. “Where Trump is putting resources and priorities, many employees describe a sense of validation and optimism. Where he is dismissive of their mission and their value as public servants, they are anxious, discouraged and sometimes hostile. And in offices where the White House envisions severe budget cuts and has set in motion buyouts, early-retirement offers and possible layoffs, civil servants are ill at ease, their futures uncertain. After just six months, it is too early to gauge the impact of the Trump administration’s zeal to shrink the size and reach of government. … But this much seems clear: Across the far flung bureaucracy, employees are either on edge or waiting with high expectations for the change Trump promised, with few, it seems, weighing in at neutral.”
— “Trump’s Presidency Fuels Conservatism’s Decline,” by National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar: “Despite holding Democratic majorities in Congress, (Jimmy Carter) clashed with his party’s leaders on Capitol Hill and failed to accomplish much. He left office giving way to the Reagan revolution. His presidency is now seen as a small Democratic blip in a sea of conservative victories. So far, Trump’s administration is mixing the corruption of Richard Nixon with the incompetence of Carter. That may be all liberalism needs to launch a comeback.”
— “It Has Only Been Six Months Since Trump Became President. Feels Like an Eternity,” by the Resurgent’s Erick Erickson: “It has only been six months since President Trump became President. It feels like an eternity of bickering, never ending fighting, media retracting stories, the Trump team screwing up stories, and the President waging constant battles on Twitter. I do this for a living and I am exhausted by it. … I can only imagine what non-political people feel. … My suspicion is that more and more Americans are tuning out of the political process right now. They will probably re-engage when the election season rolls around.”
TRUMP VS. THE FOURTH ESTATE:
— “Pro-Trump TV pundit’s firm took undisclosed payments from Trump campaign,” by Paul Farhi and Matea Gold: “For months, Mark Serrano has been one of [Trump’s] fiercest defenders and most enthusiastic supporters on TV. In semiregular appearances on the Fox Business Network, the veteran Republican operative has praised Trump’s leadership and bashed news media coverage of him. Fox News and Fox Business have described Serrano variously as a Republican strategist, a crisis-management expert and a former adviser to President George H.W. Bush … But Serrano has had another role this spring, one that wasn’t disclosed to viewers as he was touting Trump: His firm was a paid consultant to the president’s 2020 reelection campaign. Federal disclosure forms filed by the Trump committee Saturday show that it paid Serrano’s firm, ProActive Communications, a total of $30,000 for ‘communications consulting.’ TV news organizations, including Fox, typically screen would-be pundits and panelists for any financial connection to campaigns …”
— Vanity Fair, “Has Trump turned CNN into a house of existential dread?” by Sarah Ellison: “After relentless attacks from Trump and his allies, a series of journalistic problems, and in the shadow of a possible merger, the network’s C.E.O., Jeff Zucker, is feeling the heat. ‘I think there’s a real chance that Zucker is being forced out,’ said one employee. ‘That’s going to blow up this organization like nothing in the history of CNN.’”
— A member of the White House press corps used Periscope to broadcast an off-camera news briefing live. Ksenija Pavlovic, a former political science teaching fellow at Yale who founded a news site called Pavlovic Today, used the app to stream audio of Wednesday’s briefing. Though her recordings did not exactly go viral — each garnered a few dozen viewers, at most — the act of rebellion marks a significant development in increasingly strained White House-media relations. (Callum Borchers)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Washington sent messages of sympathy to Sen. John McCain after he announced his diagnosis of brain cancer:
From McCain’s daughter:
From Rep. Steve Scalise, who is still recovering himself from last month’s shooting in Alexandria, Va.:
From a New York Magazine writer:
Sen. Lindsey Graham responded to The Post’s story that the Trump administration would no longer arm anti-Assad forces in Syria:
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings lashed out against Trump’s voter fraud commission:
On Kris Kobach’s claim that we may never know whether Hillary Clinton won the popular vote because of voter fraud:
The chairman of the Senate Intel Committee drew a line in the sand:
From a Democratic House member:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— “Criticize Trump at your peril, Republican candidates. Just ask Kim Guadagno,” by the Star Ledger’s Matt Arco and Claude Brodesser-Akner: “Already trailing badly in the polls, Republican New Jersey governor candidate Kim Guadagno has been hit with another devastating 1-2 punch: She’s lost the confidence of a pair of deep-pocketed GOP groups that spend big on governor’s races … The [RNC], which is controlled by [Trump], views the lieutenant governor as someone who hasn’t been loyal to the president and officials there see her race as a losing cause … [And] the Republican Governors Association … has invested minimally in New Jersey and currently has no plans to change course, sources say. The other hit for Guadagno comes right here in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie’s top fundraisers privately say they are sitting out the race because, in part, she’s been deemed disloyal to the governor after criticizing him on several issues, including his stay at the governor’s beach house during the state shutdown.”
— New York Magazine, “The Fake News That Provoked a Crisis in the Middle East,” by Jonah Shepp:“For Arab potentates looking for reasons to pick a fight with Qatar the unbelievable statements planted in the Qatari press were too good to be true, so it came as little surprise when a report emerged this week citing U.S. intelligence officials as saying the U.A.E. had orchestrated the hacking. … [This] is not the first time in recent years that fake news reports have led to diplomatic crises in the Persian Gulf, but this time, the consequences were more than usually severe. That’s why the deployment of ‘fake news’ in the Arab world’s media war is so chilling. The use of misinformation to start diplomatic crises and wars is of course as old as diplomacy and war, and the Middle East has its own rich history of governments and non-state actors planting stories in the press to lie, mislead, and fabricate. What’s different now is that … [in] our clickbait-driven, post-truth media environment, a lie can travel around the world several times before the truth has had a chance to check its Twitter feed.”
— Politico Magazine, “Is Michigan Ready for a Governor Named Abdul?” by Daniel Strauss: “He is standing in front of two campaign aides in a room decorated with nothing more than a couple of ‘Abdul for Michigan’ posters: He needs to learn how to get his message across to large crowds, specifically large crowds of people who he knows are more likely to vote for Donald Trump than a progressive Democrat, and a Muslim one at that. … There’s an earnest but youthful naiveté to this practice session—and really to [Abdul] El-Sayed’s entire campaign. … But this session does speak to a certain self-awareness—that, in a state that surprisingly embraced Trump’s nationalist, anti-immigrant message, being an observant Muslim might present challenges that most candidates don’t have to deal with.”
— The Atlantic, “What Congressional Republicans Really Think About Trump and Russia,” by McKay Coppins: “Even as alarm has reached fever pitch among Democrats, most in the GOP see the reaction as little more than partisan noise.”
|HOT ON THE LEFT
“With Speeches And Bright Dresses, Quinceañeras Protest Texas Sanctuary City Ban,” from NPR: “The colorful scene melded two time-honored Texas traditions: political protest and the quinceañera. With skirts flouncing, 15 young women ascended the steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Wednesday morning to a traditional Mexican birthday song played in a mariachi style. But there was no birthday to celebrate. Instead, the girls had gathered to protest a controversial immigration enforcement law that goes into effect September 1. ‘We are here to take a stand against Senate Bill 4, the most discriminatory and hateful law in recent history,’ declared Magdalena Juarez, 17, wearing a bright red gown.”
|HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Postal Service broke law in pushing time off for workers to campaign for Clinton, investigation finds,” from Lisa Rein: “The U.S. Postal Service engaged in widespread violations of federal law by pressuring managers to approve letter carriers’ taking time off last fall to campaign for Hillary Clinton and other union-backed Democrats, investigators said Wednesday. High-level postal officials had for years granted employees’ requests for unpaid leave, leading last year to an ‘institutional bias’ in favor of Clinton and other Democrats endorsed by … one of the largest postal unions. … The investigation found that 97 letter carriers took time off, sometimes weeks, to take part in the union’s Labor 2016 program, canvassing, making phone calls and working on other get-out-the-vote efforts to help elect Clinton and other pro-labor candidates”
Trump and Pence will participate in a pol-mil session at the Pentagon in the morning. Trump will then make an announcement on “a pharmaceutical glass packaging initiative” while Pence does Fox News interviews.
|QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump to Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, the only Republican up for reelection next year in a state Hillary Clinton won, on Heller’s hesitation to overhaul Obamacare: “Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he? … Okay, and I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they’re going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— The heat in D.C. today will be nearly unbearable. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The day starts off clear and muggy and goes downhill from there. Highs reach the mid-to-upper 90s with 100 not out of the question. Heat indices are likely to reach 100-105. Northwest breezes are too light to take an edge off the swelter. Isolated storms (10-20 percent chance) are not likely to offer much cooling relief either, except in the immediate area of the showers.”
— The Nationals lost to the Angels 7-0. (Chelsea Janes)
— Former congresswoman Donna Edwards is reportedly considering a run for Prince George’s county executive. Arelis R. Hernández reports: “Speaking to a friendly crowd at a union hall in Landover, Edwards touched on all the flash points that are emerging as issues for voters in the 2018 race, including the embattled school system, economic development and responsive governance. … Upon seeing a reporter in the crowd, Edwards told her audience that she would not have anything to say Wednesday about her political future.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late night hosts made jokes at Mitch McConnell’s expense after the most recent Obamacare repeal bill failed:
Late-night laughs: Trumpcare fails again
The Senate’s health-care bill is effectively dead and late-night comedians had a lot to say about it. The Senate’s health-care bill is effectively dead and late-night comedians had a lot to say about it. (The Washington Post)
Samantha Bee picked apart Trump’s voting commission:
Nevada police are looking for this man in connection to the break-in at Sen. Dean Heller’s office:
Police looking for this man for break-in at senator’s Las Vegas office
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are looking for this person of interest in the case of a break-in at the office of Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on July 15. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are looking for this person of interest in the case of a break-in at the office of Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police)
The Post’s Amber Phillips explains how three Republican women sank the latest Senate attempt to overhaul health care:
How Senate Republican women stopped the latest attempt at ACA repeal
Three Republican women sunk a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Three Republican women sunk a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)
A member of the House asked NASA about civilizations on Mars during a hearing this week:
Lawmaker asks NASA about civilizations on Mars
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) asked about civilizations on Mars during a July 18 House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee hearing. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) asked about civilizations on Mars during a July 18 U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee hearing. (House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)
In light of Jeff Flake’s consoling tweet to his Democratic challenger, who has been receiving Islamophobic comments, The Post compiled five examples of politics getting nice:
5 times politics got nice
In a tweet, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) defended Democratic challenger Deedra Abboud from hateful attacks online. Abboud is a Muslim-American candidate running for U.S. Senate against Flake. Here are five times politics got nice. In a tweet, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) defended Democratic challenger Deedra Abboud from hateful attacks online. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)
A 16-year-old boy who disappeared from Minnesota over 40 years ago was identified as one of serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s victims:
Victim of 1970s serial killer Gacy identified as Minnesota teen
A 16-year-old boy who went missing more than 40 years ago from his home in Minnesota was identified by Chicago authorities on Wednesday as a victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy. A 16-year-old boy who went missing more than 40 years ago from his home in Minnesota was identified by Chicago authorities on Wednesday as a victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy. (Reuters)
A public defender’s office argued that this video shows Baltimore police officers planting drugs during a January arrest:
Public defender’s office says this video shows a Baltimore police officer planting drugs
Baltimore’s public defender’s office released body camera footage it says shows a Baltimore police officer planting drugs during a January arrest. Police say officers may have been reconstructing drug find to record it on video. Baltimore’s public defender’s office released body camera footage it says shows a Baltimore police officer planting drugs during a January arrest. Police say of (Office of the Public Defender, Baltimore)
Two men in New York fought each other with unconventional weapons: a machete and a trash can:
Man with a machete fights man with trash can in New York
Two men fought with unconventional weapons, and their fists, early on the morning of July 19 in New York. Two men fought with unconventional weapons, and their fists, early on the morning of July 19 in New York. (Paul Tena/Twitter)
And “Despacito” became the most streamed song of all time:
‘Despacito’ now most-streamed global track
The hit song “Despacito” has set a record as the most streamed music track of all time, record company Universal Music said July 19. The song is the first Spanish-language song since “La Macarena” to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. “Despacito” sets record as most streamed music track of all time. (Reuters)
Daily Mail–7 hours ago
Daily Mail–7 hours ago
Newsweek–1 hour ago
Raw Story–9 hours ago
In-Depth–Newsweek–Jul 16, 2017
It was not clear what information the bank might ultimately provide. Generally, the bank is seen as central to understanding Mr. Trump’s finances since it is the only major financial institution that continues to conduct sizable business with him. Deutsche Bank has also lent money to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and to his family real estate business.
Although Deutsche Bank recently landed in legal trouble for laundering money for Russian entities — paying more than $600 million in penalties to New York and British regulators — there is no indication of a Russian connection to Mr. Trump’s loans or accounts at Deutsche Bank, people briefed on the matter said. The bank, which declined to comment, scrutinizes its accounts for problematic ties as part of so-called “know your customer” banking rules and other requirements.
And with one of its most famous clients headed to the White House, the bank designed a plan for overseeing the accounts of Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner and presented it to regulators at the New York State Department of Financial Services early this year. The plan essentially called for monitoring the accounts for red flags such as exceptionally favorable loan terms or unusual partners.
Additionally, the New York regulators recently requested information related to the hundreds of millions in loans Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management division provided Mr. Trump, one of the people said, paying particular attention to personal guarantees he made to obtain the loans. Those guarantees have declined as the loans were paid down and the property values increased, but it remains a source of interest to the regulators.
While there is no formal investigation of the bank — and personal guarantees are often required when people receive big loans from their wealth managers — the New York regulators have questioned whether the guarantee could create problems for Deutsche Bank should Mr. Trump fail to pay his debts. To collect, the bank would either have to sue the president, or risk being seen as cutting him a special deal.
It is not a hypothetical concern: Mr. Trump sued the bank in 2008 to delay paying back an earlier loan.
Mr. Trump has had a complicated relationship with the bank over the past 20 years, which has included more than $4 billion in loan commitments and potential bond offerings, a majority of which were completed, according to a New York Times review of securities filings and interviews with people with knowledge of the deals. Despite all the risk-taking — and a brief loan default that spurred the 2008 litigation — Mr. Trump’s business has made the bank money, the people said.
A spokesman for the New York regulators declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.
A few years after Mr. Trump sued the bank in 2008, he moved his business from the bank’s commercial real estate lending division to its private wealth division, where executives were more willing to deal with him, according to the people briefed on the matter.
In the past six years, the private wealth unit helped finance three of Mr. Trump’s properties, including a golf course near Miami and a hotel in Washington, according to Mr. Trump’s most recent financial disclosures and the people with knowledge of the loans.
The size of the loans — totaling about $300 million — is somewhat unusual by Wall Street standards, according to former and current Deutsche Bank executives and wealth managers at other Wall Street firms.
While it is not unheard-of for real estate developers to obtain large wealth management loans for projects deemed too risky for an investment bank, it differs from bank to bank, and those that do issue loans of that size typically do so for top clients known to pay their bills.
Mr. Trump’s wealth manager at Deutsche Bank, Rosemary Vrablic, has specialized in real estate lending and is known for taking risks on clients, two of the executives and wealth managers said. And her relationship with Mr. Trump is close enough that Ms. Vrablic attended Mr. Trump’s inauguration, according to a person who attended.
Mr. Kushner has established his own relationship with the bank. He and his mother have an unsecured line of credit from Deutsche Bank, valued at up to $25 million, and the family business he ran until January, Kushner Companies, received a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank last year.
Mr. Kushner’s dealings at the bank have included Ms. Vrablic. In 2013, he ordered up a glowing profile of her in the real estate magazine he owned, The Mortgage Observer, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The piece concluded with a disclaimer that her “past clients” included Mr. Kushner.
In an interview with The Times last year, Mr. Trump suggested reporters speak with Ms. Vrablic about his banking relationships.
“Why don’t you call the head of Deutsche Bank? Her name is Rosemary Vrablic,” he said. “She is the boss.”
A Relationship Is Born
It was 1998, and Mike Offit, fresh off the trading floor of Goldman Sachs for a new job at Deutsche Bank, was hired to put Deutsche Bank’s real estate lending business on the map. To do that, Mr. Offit knew he had to snag big name developers.
That moment arrived when Rob Horowitz, with the real estate firm Cooper-Horowitz, approached him with an idea: Would he work with Mr. Trump, who at the time had a tarnished reputation after several of his casinos landed in bankruptcy?
“My reaction was, why wouldn’t I?” Mr. Offit recalled in a recent interview.
To Mr. Offit, there was little downside to hearing Mr. Trump’s pitch. A short time later, Mr. Trump came by Mr. Offit’s Midtown Manhattan office to discuss a loan for renovations at his 40 Wall Street building. Unlike other developers who arrived with their entourages, Mr. Trump showed up alone, Mr. Offit said, and despite a reputation for bluster, he knew the financials of the deal cold.
“There was some resistance from management because of Donald’s reputation, but I told them that our loan would be wildly overly collateralized even in the worst-case scenario,” Mr. Offit said.
More deals followed. Later in the year, Mr. Trump needed $300 million to build Trump World Tower near the United Nations. But he required a construction loan, which, at the time, Deutsche did not have the right staff to manage. Determined to get the deal nonetheless, Mr. Offit found another German bank to make the loan with the commitment that Deutsche Bank would take possession once the building was constructed.
But as the deal was being finalized, the other German bank had second thoughts because of worries of a labor strike. Just as the deal seemed to be falling apart, Mr. Trump produced a signed commitment from all the major construction unions promising not to strike.
“We were all amazed he managed to get that,” said Mr. Offit, who retired from the bank in 1999.
In the mid 2000s, Mr. Trump was in need of another construction loan. But this time, the loan — up to $640 million to build Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago — did not go as well.
A few years after the project began, the 2008 financial crisis upended the global economy and Mr. Trump fell behind on loan payments. According to a person briefed on the deal, Deutsche Bank was discussing a possible extension, when Mr. Trump sued it to avoid paying $40 million that he had personally guaranteed.
His argument, as detailed in a letter to the bank, was novel: “Deutsche Bank is one of the banks primarily responsible for the economic dysfunction we are currently facing,” Mr. Trump wrote.
With the help of a lawyer — Steven Schlesinger of Garden City, N.Y. — Mr. Trump argued that the financial crisis allowed him to invoke the extraordinary event clause in his contract with the bank. Mr. Trump argued Deutsche Bank should pay him $3 billion in damages.
The bank filed its own action against Mr. Trump, demanding he make good on the loan. In a legal filing, Deutsche Bank, which had distributed the loan to a number of other banks, called the lawsuit “classic Trump.”
The standoff culminated with a meeting in Trump Tower, Mr. Schlesinger said.
At the meeting, Mr. Trump threatened to remove his name from the building if he did not get more time to pay. That move, Mr. Trump suggested, would reduce the value of the building.
Ultimately, the bank granted Mr. Trump additional time to repay. And when he did, it was through the Wall Street equivalent of borrowing from one parent to repay the other.
Mr. Trump received a loan from Deutsche Bank’s wealth management unit to pay off the debt he owed the bank’s real estate lending division, according to two people briefed on the transaction. The wealth management unit later issued another loan for the Chicago project that is valued at $25 million to $50 million.
A Personal Banker
Ms. Vrablic, who helped facilitate the wealth management unit’s loans to Mr. Trump, has built a career lending to the rich and famous.
She got her start on Wall Street at Citibank’s private bank in the late 1980s and later worked at Bank of America before joining Deutsche Bank in 2006.
Ms. Vrablic, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has a reputation for being an aggressive advocate for her clients, according to two executives familiar with her work and profiles written in The American Banker and The Mortgage Observer.
In a 2013 Mortgage Observer article, one of her clients, Herbert Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers, remarked that “when she came into the picture, it was a tough time to get money, and she was able to be very creative and get us what we needed.”
In a 1999 American Banker article, Ms. Vrablic described her clients as having “many homes, ex-wives, and many children.”
Mr. Trump fit that mold, but he was far from her only client in the rarefied world of New York real estate. Others included Stephen Ross, the chairman and founder of the Related Companies in New York.
Mr. Ross extolled Ms. Vrablic’s ability to make deals happen. “She brings knowledge — and the fact is that if she tells you something, you know it’s going to get done,” he told The Mortgage Observer.
Ms. Vrablic was quoted in the same article as saying that real estate is her “deep dive.”
While Mr. Kushner has never disclosed the exact nature of his business with Ms. Vrablic, his financial disclosure shows a line of credit worth between $5 million and $25 million. And according to securities filings, Deutsche Bank provided a $285 million mortgage to Kushner Companies to help it refinance the loan it used to purchase several floors of retail space in the former New York Times building on 43rd Street in Manhattan.
Mr. Kushner’s company bought the space from Africa Israel Investments, a company owned by Lev Leviev, which has a sizable real estate portfolio in Russia.
Deutsche Bank, other securities filings show, is also involved in loans the Kushner Companies received for the Puck Building in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood and a property on Maiden Lane near Wall Street. The bank was responsible for either pooling those loans into mortgage-backed securities that were sold to investors, according to Trepp, a data and analytics firm, or distributing payments to the investors.
In the autumn of 2014, Ms. Vrablic and Mr. Kushner attended the Frick Collection’s dinner, a black-tie event where patrons dined among famous works of art by Manet, El Greco and Turner.
A picture of the pair appeared in the New York Social Diary. Mr. Kushner, dressed in a tuxedo, had his arm around Ms. Vrablic.
The Russia Question
There is no indication that federal investigators suspect a Russian connection to Mr. Trump’s dealings with Deutsche Bank, according to people briefed on the matter.
Mr. Horowitz, of the real estate firm Cooper-Horowitz, also saw no Russian ties in his many years of working with Mr. Trump.
“I’ve arranged financing for the majority of Mr. Trump’s transactions, and I’ve never once seen any money coming to him from Russia,” he said. Mr. Horowitz was not involved in any of the private wealth management loans from Ms. Vrablic.
But separate from Mr. Trump, the German bank has a host of Russian connections.
Soon after Mr. Trump took office, the bank settled allegations that it helped Russian investors launder as much as $10 billion through its branches in Moscow, London and New York. In May, the Federal Reserve reached its own settlement with the bank over the money laundering violations.
Deutsche Bank also had a “cooperation agreement” with the Russian state-owned development bank, Vnesheconombank, which has been swept up in the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. And it had ties to VTB Bank, a far larger Russian bank facing sanctions in the United States and the European Union. The Russian firm’s investment banking arm, VTB Capital, was created by hiring dozens of bankers from Deutsche Bank’s Moscow office.
Some ties are less direct. Josef Ackermann, Deutsche Bank’s former chief executive, is now chairman of the board at the Bank of Cyprus. A large shareholder of that bank was Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian oligarch who purchased Mr. Trump’s estate in Florida.
And in May, federal prosecutors settled a case with a Cyprus investment vehicle owned by a Russian businessman with close family connections to the Kremlin.
The firm, Prevezon Holdings, was represented by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who was among the people who met during the presidential campaign with Donald Trump Jr. about Hillary Clinton.
Federal prosecutors in the United States claimed Prevezon, which admitted no wrongdoing, laundered the proceeds of an alleged Russian tax fraud through real estate. Prevezon and its partner relied in part on $90 million in financing from a big European financial institution, court records show.
It was Deutsche Bank.
New York Times
Big German Bank, Key to Trump’s Finances, Faces New Scrutiny
New York Times
Deutsche Bank expects it must eventually provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Credit Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Mr. Trump …
New York Times
Excerpts From The Times’s Interview With Trump
New York Times
President Trump spoke on Wednesday with three New York Times reporters — Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman — in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office. Also in attendance was Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman. At one …
At six month mark, here are six of Donald Trump’s most controversial tweetsUSA TODAY
I mean, you think of Hillary Clinton, and you look, she went eight years — very capable — went eight years as the first lady, and could not get health care. So this is not an easy crack. The one thing I’ll say about myself, so, Obama was in there for eight years and got Obamacare. Hillary Clinton was in there eight years and they never got Hillarycare, whatever they called it at the time. I am not in here six months, and they’ll say, “Trump hasn’t fulfilled his agenda.” I say to myself, wait a minute, I’m only here a very short period of time compared to Obama. How long did it take to get Obamacare?
BAKER: March, March 2010.
TRUMP: So he was there for more than a year.
HABERMAN: Fourteen months.
TRUMP: And I’m here less than six months, so, ah, you know. Something to think about.
BAKER: We wrote the same stories, though, in August of 2009. “Obama can’t get it.”
SCHMIDT: It died several times.
HABERMAN: Several times.
TRUMP: Well, it was a tough one. That was a very tough one.
BAKER: He lost that election [the 2010 midterms].
TRUMP: Nothing changes. Nothing changes. Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.
HABERMAN: That’s been the thing for four years. When you win an entitlement, you can’t take it back.
TRUMP: But what it does, Maggie, it means it gets tougher and tougher. As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically, you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
HABERMAN: Am I wrong in thinking — I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right? I mean, I think that you come at it from the view of …
TRUMP: Yes, yes. [garbled]
TRUMP: So I told them today, I don’t want to do that. I want to either get it done or not get it done. If we don’t get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we’ll blame the Democrats. And at some point, they are going to come and say, “You’ve got to help us.”
BAKER: Did the senators want to try again?
TRUMP: I think so. We had a great meeting. Was I late?
TRUMP: It was a great meeting. We had 51 show up, other than John.
BAKER: Senator McCain.
TRUMP: That’s a lot. Normally when they call for a meeting, you have like 20.
HABERMAN: How about the last one in June? Do you guys remember how many came?
TRUMP: Ah, 49. It was actually 48, but John McCain was there. But I guess we had 51 today, so that counts. That shows the spirit.
BAKER: Who is the key guy?
TRUMP: Well, they are all key. The problem is we have 52 votes. Don’t forget, you look at Obama, he had 60. That’s a big difference. So, we have 52 votes. Now, I guess we lose Susan Collins. I guess we lose Rand Paul. Then we can’t lose any votes. That is a very tough standard. Statistically, you want to bet on that all day long. With that being said, I think we had a great meeting. I think we had a great meeting.
HABERMAN: Where does it go from here, do you think?
TRUMP: Well, I say, let’s not vote on repeal. Let’s just vote on this. So first, they vote on the vote. And that happens sometime Friday?
HABERMAN: Next week.
TRUMP: Or Monday? Monday. And then they’ll vote on this, and we’ll see. We have some meetings scheduled today. I think we have six people who are really sort of O.K. They are all good people. We don’t have bad people. I know the bad people. Believe me, do I know bad people.
And we have a very good group of people, and I think they want to get there. So we’ll see what happens. But it’s tough.
SCHMIDT: How’s [Mitch] McConnell to work with?
TRUMP: I like him. I mean, he’s good. He’s good. It’s been a tough process for him.
HABERMAN: He’s taken on some water.
TRUMP: Yeah. It’s been a tough process for him. This health care is a tough deal. I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care. [garbled] This is a very tough time for him, in a sense, because of the importance. And I believe we get there.
This is a very tough time for them, in a sense, because of the importance. And I believe that it’s [garbled], that makes it a lot easier. It’s a mess. One of the things you get out of this, you get major tax cuts, and reform. And if you add what the people are going to save in the middle income brackets, if you add that to what they’re saving with health care, this is like a windfall for the country, for the people. So, I don’t know, I thought it was a great meeting. I bet the number’s — I bet the real number’s four. But let’s say six or eight. And everyone’s [garbled], so statistically, that’s a little dangerous, right?
BAKER: Pretty tight.
TRUMP: I hope we don’t have any grandstanders. I don’t think we do.
TRUMP: I think it will be pretty bad for them if they did. I don’t think we have any — I think it would be very bad for — I think this is something the people want. They’ve been promised it.
HABERMAN: [In Paris], I don’t think I’ve seen you look like you were enjoying yourself that much since the convention, really.
TRUMP: I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president. I’m saying, man, they cover [garbled]. You saw the reviews I got on that speech. Poland was beautiful and wonderful, and the reception was incredible.
And then, went to France the following week, because it was the 100th year. [inaudible] The Paris Accord — I wasn’t going to get along with France for a little while, because people forget, because it is a very unfair agreement to us. China doesn’t get [garbled] until 2030. Russia goes back to 1994 as a standard — a much, much lower standard. India has things that are [garbled]. I want to do the same thing as everyone else. We can’t do that? We can’t do that? That’s O.K. Let me get out. Frankly, the people that like me, love that I got out.
After that, it was fairly surprising. He [President Emmanuel Macron of France] called me and said, “I’d love to have you there and honor you in France,” having to do with Bastille Day. Plus, it’s the 100th year of the First World War. That’s big. And I said yes. I mean, I have a great relationship with him. He’s a great guy.
HABERMAN: He was very deferential to you. Very.
TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.
HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.
TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.
TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.
TRUMP: At that note, the cameras are gone. I was standing there with him, with probably hundreds of thousands of people.
HABERMAN: It was a very crowded [garbled].
TRUMP: And it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.
HABERMAN: I wondered if you were going to say that.
TRUMP: I’ve always thought of that.
TRUMP: I’ve always thought of that. I’ve thought of it long before.
TRUMP: But the Bastille Day parade was — now that was a super-duper — O.K. I mean, that was very much more than normal. They must have had 200 planes over our heads. Normally you have the planes and that’s it, like the Super Bowl parade. And everyone goes crazy, and that’s it. That happened for — and you know what else that was nice? It was limited. You know, it was two hours, and the parade ended. It didn’t go a whole day. They didn’t go crazy. You don’t want to leave, but you have to. Or you want to leave, really.
These things are going on all day. It was a two-hour parade. They had so many different zones. Maybe 100,000 different uniforms, different divisions, different bands. Then we had the retired, the older, the ones who were badly injured. The whole thing, it was an incredible thing.
HABERMAN: It was beautiful.
TRUMP: And you are looking at the Arc [de Triomphe]. So we are standing in the most beautiful buildings, and we are looking down the road, and like three miles in, and then you had the Arc. And then you have these soldiers. Everyone was so proud. Honestly, it was a beautiful thing. I was glad I did it.
People were surprised because I’d just come back from Hamburg. So I was back for three days, and then I had to go out again. But when he [Mr. Macron] invited me, he and I have a very good relationship. I have a very good relationship with Merkel [Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany]. Do you know what happened with Merkel? So I am sitting in the chair. We’d been sitting there for two hours. So it’s not like, “Nice to see ya.” So the press comes in. So I guess someone screamed out, “Shake her hand, shake her hand!” I didn’t even hear. So I didn’t shake her hand, because I’d been with her for so long. I’d been with her for a long period of time. So I didn’t shake her — the next day, “Trump refused to shake…” [garbled]
TRUMP: She actually called me, and she said, um, “You know, I think we get along very well.” I said we do, we really do. I said, “You gotta put more money into NATO,” No. 1. And No. 2 is like, our trade imbalance is ridiculous. You know, it’s a money machine.
TRUMP: It’s been a long time. Nothing changes. Wait till you see what we’re going to do on trade.
HABERMAN: Sounds like it’s going to be very interesting.
TRUMP: Much more interesting than anybody would understand.
BAKER: Will you go to Britain? Are you going to make a state visit to Britain? Are you going to be able to do that?
TRUMP: As to Britain?
HABERMAN: Will you go there?
TRUMP: Ah, they’ve asked me. What was interesting — so, when Macron asked, I said: “Do you think it’s a good thing for me to go to Paris? I just ended the Paris Accord last week. Is this a good thing?” He said, “They love you in France.” I said, “O.K., I just don’t want to hurt you.”
TRUMP: We had dinner at the Eiffel Tower, and the bottom of the Eiffel Tower looked like they could have never had a bigger celebration ever in the history of the Eiffel Tower. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people, ’cause they heard we were having dinner.
HABERMAN: You must have been so tired at, by that point.
TRUMP: Yeah. It was beautiful. We toured the museum, we went to Napoleon’s tomb …
TRUMP: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? [garbled]
TRUMP: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.
But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. [crosstalk] It’s pretty amazing.
So, we’re having a good time. The economy is doing great.
SCHMIDT: The markets are doing great.
TRUMP: They’re going to really go up if we do what we’re doing. I mean, cut regulations tremendously. Sometimes — you know, one thing they hadn’t thought about at The Times, where they said I didn’t really cut regulations as much. I heard that because I said — it could have been a little slip-up in terms of what I said — I meant, for the time in office, five months and couple of weeks, I think I’ve done more than anyone else. They may have taken it as more than anyone else, period.
But I’m talking about for my time. I heard that Harry Truman was first, and then we beat him. These are approved by Congress. These are not just executive orders. On the executive orders, we cut regulations tremendously. By the way, I want regulations, but, you know, some of the — you have to get nine different regulations, and you could never do anything. I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things.
The energy stuff is going really well. We’re going to be an exporter — we already are an exporter of energy. We’re doing well. I mean, the banks, you look at rules and regulations, you look at Dodd-Frank, Dodd-Frank is going to be, you know, modified, and again, I want rules and regulations. But you don’t want to choke, right? People can’t get loans to buy a pizza parlor, to buy a — you know, I saw out on the trail — people say, Mr. Trump, we’ve dealt with banks, my own bank, and they can’t loan me anymore. I’ve never had a bad day with a bank. You know? So we’ll put — yeah, because of statutory [garbled], they can’t loan to that kind of a business. And they’re good businesses to loan to. So I think we’ve — I think we’re set to really go [garbled].
BAKER: As long as we’re on the record, a lot of people are curious about your conversation with President [Vladimir V.] Putin at dinner. Not surprising. But what did you all talk about, and——
TRUMP: So, that dinner was a very long time planned dinner. And what it was was an evening at the opera. It was a final night goodbye from Germany and from Chancellor Merkel. It was her dinner. It was, you know, everybody knew about it. It was well-known.
TRUMP: So when we got there, it was with spouses, and when we got there, there were a thousand media. You guys know, were you guys there?
BAKER: No, it was Julie [Hirschfeld Davis] and Glenn Thrush.
TRUMP: So, it was tremendous media. And we took a picture of everybody, the wives and the leaders, and then the leaders, and, you know, numerous pictures outside on the river. Then everybody walked in to see the opera. Then the opera ended. Then we walked into a big room where they had dinner for not only the leaders — Lagarde [Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund] was there, who I think is terrific, and various others. You had the E.U. people there, people other than just the leaders, but quite a few people. I would say you have 20 times two, so you had 40, and then you probably had another 10 or 15 people, you had Christine Lagarde, you had some others also.
So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.
HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?
TRUMP: Like, not “hello.”
HABERMAN: That must make for an awkward seating.
TRUMP: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for——
TRUMP: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes.
TRUMP: You had an opera, and then you had a cocktail party for the people at the opera, and then you had the leaders with the spouses, and other leaders in Europe and maybe other places, go in. We sat at this really long table, which held, has to be at least 60, 65 people with room. O.K., it’s a very big table, big room. But there was nothing secretive about it.
It was like, that’s where we’re going. And I think it even said on the list, at the request of the German chancellor and Germany, it’s going to be the opera, it’s going to be cocktails, it’s going to be dinner. I think the crowd thinned out for the dinner — you know, it was the leaders, primarily. But the leaders and Lagarde. And [inaudible].
O.K., so we’re sitting at this massive table. And the wives are separated from their husbands, which sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But they did. It’s always easier when they don’t do it, because you always have somebody to talk to, right? And I was sitting next to the president of Argentina — his wife — [Mauricio] Macri — nice woman, who speaks English. And the prime minister of Japan’s wife, Prime Minister Abe. Great relationships. So I’m sitting there. There was one interpreter for Japanese, ’cause otherwise it would have been even tougher. But I enjoyed the evening with her, and she’s really a lovely woman, and I enjoyed — the whole thing was good.
And now Melania was sitting on the other side of the table, way down on the other end, very far away. She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, I don’t know. She was sitting next to Putin.
HABERMAN: She had been the whole time?
TRUMP: Yes. She was sitting next to Putin.
BAKER: Does she speak Russian at all?
TRUMP: No. She speaks other languages.
TRUMP: She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.
HABERMAN: You did?
TRUMP: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——
HABERMAN: The senators downstairs?
TRUMP: A lot of them. They said, “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”
BAKER: You asked them about it at lunch?
TRUMP: Nah, a couple of them. They — now, that was before Russia was hot, don’t forget. You know, Russia wasn’t hot then. That was almost a year and a half ago. It wasn’t like it is, like it is radioactive, then. Russia was Russia.
HABERMAN: Then can I ask you——
BAKER: Sorry to interrupt. The email, though, said something I thought was really interesting, and I wonder what you thought of it. It said this “is part of Russia and its government’s support of Mr. Trump.” So whatever actually happened at the meeting——
TRUMP: Well, I never saw the email. I never saw the email until, you know——
BAKER: Right, but now you have. So, what do you interpret that to mean, now that you have seen it?
TRUMP: Well, Hillary did the reset. Somebody was saying today, and then I read, where Hillary Clinton was dying to get back with Russia. Her husband made a speech, got half a million bucks while she was secretary of state. She did the uranium deal, which is a horrible thing, while she was secretary of state, and got a lot of money.
TRUMP: She was opposing sanctions. She was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia.
BAKER: When was that?
HABERMAN: Do you remember when that was? I don’t remember that.
TRUMP: I just saw it. I just saw it. She was opposed to sanctions, strongly opposed to sanctions on Russia.
HABERMAN: This is post-Crimea, I’m assuming? Is that what we would be talking about?
TRUMP: I don’t really know. … But in that time. And don’t forget, Crimea was given away during Obama. Not during Trump. In fact, I was on one of the shows, I said they’re exactly right, they didn’t have it as it exactly. But he was — this — Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn’t do the shot. I did the shot. Had he done that shot, he wouldn’t have had — had he done something dramatic, because if you remember, they had a tremendous gas attack after he made that statement. Much bigger than the one they had with me.
HABERMAN: It was sarin as well?
TRUMP: Sarin. And, and tremendous numbers of people were killed, young people, children. And he didn’t do anything. That was a famous weekend where they were all asking him to do it, do it, do it. They thought they had it, and then he — not easy to do, I will say this, ’cause when I had to make that decision, I was with the president of China, and General Mattis [Defense Secretary Jim Mattis] said, “We’re locked and loaded, sir,” and I’m saying [mumbles], you know. [mumbles] Look, you’re killing people.
TRUMP: You hate it, it’s tough. Obama — you know, I can understand it in a way, but some things you have to do. But it’s, it’s a tough, it’s a tough decision to make.
BAKER: I do want to come out, on the email, now that you have seen that email that said Russia’s government — I mean, how did you — did you interpret it that way?
TRUMP: Well, I thought originally it might have had to do something with the payment by Russia of the D.N.C. Somewhere I heard that. Like, it was an illegal act done by the D.N.C., or the Democrats. That’s what I had heard. Now, I don’t know where I heard it, but I had heard that it had to do something with illegal acts with respect to the D.N.C. Now, you know, when you look at the kind of stuff that came out, that was, that was some pretty horrific things came out of that. But that’s what I had heard. But I don’t know what it means. All I know is this: When somebody calls up and they say, “We have infor—” Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff.
HABERMAN: Which, which one?
SCHMIDT: The dossier.
TRUMP: The dossier.
HABERMAN: The dossier. Oh, yes.
TRUMP: Now, that was totally made-up stuff, and in fact, that guy’s being sued by somebody. … And he’s dying with the lawsuit. I know a lot about those guys, they’re phony guys. They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing — plus, I have witnesses, because I went there with a group of people. You know, I went there with Phil Ruffin——
HABERMAN: Oh, I didn’t know that.
TRUMP: I had a group of bodyguards, including Keith [Schiller] —
HABERMAN: Keith was there, right?
TRUMP: Keith was there. He said, “What kind of crap is this?” I went there for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful. It was so disgraceful.
TRUMP: When he [James B. Comey] brought it [the dossier] to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal.
HABERMAN: You said that to him?
TRUMP: Yeah, don’t forget——
TRUMP: I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phony stuff.
SCHMIDT: Why do you think — why do you think he shared it?
TRUMP: I think he shared it so that I would — because the other three people left, and he showed it to me.
TRUMP: So anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.
SCHMIDT: As leverage?
TRUMP: Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, “You have every right to fire me,” blah blah blah. Right? He said, “You have every right to fire me.” I said, that’s a very strange — you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.
BAKER: Do you think in hindsight, because of what’s happened since then——
TRUMP: Comey wrote a letter.
HABERMAN: Which letter?
SCHMIDT: To you? To the F.B.I. staff or to you?
TRUMP: I thought it was to me, right?
BAKER: I think he wrote it to the staff, saying——
TRUMP: It might have been——
BAKER: That “the president has every right to fire me.”
TRUMP: It might have been. It was just a very strange letter to say that.
BAKER: But do you think in hindsight, given that——
TRUMP: What was the purpose in repeating that?
BAKER: Do you think what’s given that——
TRUMP: Do you understand what I mean? Why would somebody say, “He has every right to fire me,” bah bah bah. Why wouldn’t you just say, “Hey, I’ve retired …”
TRUMP: It was very — a lot of people have commented that.
BAKER: Given what’s happened since then, though, was it a political mistake to have fired him, given what’s happened?
TRUMP: I think I did a great thing for the American people.
SCHMIDT: But look at the headache it’s caused, you know?
TRUMP: It’s okay. I have headaches, that’s what I have, I have headaches. … But you know what, I think I did a great thing for the American people.
HABERMAN: Do you wish you had done it on Day 1? When you got in? Because I honestly had assumed that you, if you were going to do it, that’s when you would do it.
TRUMP: Well, it could’ve been. It could’ve been. I feel like it was very dishonest when he wouldn’t say what he knew he said to the public. I thought that was very honest. And I thought that he did that for the reason I just said.
SCHMIDT: What do you understand to be the four corners of what Mueller [Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation] can look at, if he steps—— [crosstalk]
TRUMP: I don’t know. Nobody has contacted me about anything.
TRUMP: Because I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.
BAKER: Can we put that on the record?
TRUMP: Because so far, the only — yeah, you can put it down.
SCHMIDT: Was that [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’s mistake or [Deputy Attorney General Rod J.] Rosenstein’s mistake?
TRUMP: Look, Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.
BAKER: Was that a mistake?
TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
HABERMAN: He gave you no heads up at all, in any sense?
TRUMP: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.
TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.
TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore. Now, he, we went through a lot of things. We were interviewing replacements at the F.B.I. Did you know Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed?
HABERMAN: I did, actually.
TRUMP: He was sitting in that chair. We had a wonderful meeting.
HABERMAN: Day before, right?
SCHMIDT: Did he want the job?
TRUMP: The day before! Of course, he was up here, and he wanted the job.
HABERMAN: And he made that clear to you? He would have——
TRUMP: So, now what happens is, he leaves the office. Rosenstein leaves the office. The next day, he is appointed special counsel. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point. So Jeff Sessions, Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers.
HABERMAN: You mean at the hearing?
TRUMP: Yeah, he gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t. He then becomes attorney general, and he then announces he’s going to recuse himself. Why wouldn’t he have told me that before?
HABERMAN: Why do you think it was? What do you think it was?
TRUMP: I don’t know.
BAKER: What would cause you — what would be the line beyond which if Mueller went, you would say, “That’s too far, we would need to dismiss him”?
TRUMP: Look, there are so many conflicts that everybody has. Then Rosenstein becomes extremely angry because of Comey’s Wednesday press conference, where he said that he would do the same thing he did a year ago with Hillary Clinton, and Rosenstein became extremely angry at that because, as a prosecutor, he knows that Comey did the wrong thing. Totally wrong thing. And he gives me a letter, O.K., he gives me a letter about Comey. And by the way, that was a tough letter, O.K. Now, perhaps I would have fired Comey anyway, and it certainly didn’t hurt to have the letter, O.K. But he gives me a very strong letter, and now he’s involved in the case. Well, that’s a conflict of interest. Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are? But then, then Comey also says that he did something in order to get the special prose— special counsel. He leaked. The reason he leaked. So, he illegally leaked.
TRUMP: So think of this. Mike. He illegally leaks, and everyone thinks it is illegal, and by the way, it looks like it’s classified and all that stuff. So he got — not a smart guy — he got tricked into that, because they didn’t even ask him that question. They asked him another question, O.K.?
TRUMP: He said I said “hope” — “I hope you can treat Flynn good” or something like that. I didn’t say anything.
But even if he did — like I said at the news conference on the, you know, Rose Garden — even if I did, that’s not — other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying — they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: “It’s ended. It’s over. Period.”
TRUMP: And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.
HABERMAN: Chris Wray.
TRUMP: He’s highly thought of by everybody. I think I did the country a great service with respect to Comey.
BAKER: Did you shoo other people out of the room when you talked to Comey?
TRUMP: No, no.
BAKER: That time [inaudible] [Michael T.] Flynn —
TRUMP: No. That was the other thing. I told people to get out of the room. Why would I do that?
SCHMIDT: Did you actually have a one-on-one with Comey then?
TRUMP: Not much. Not even that I remember. He was sitting, and I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff. He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.? But people didn’t — we had a couple people that said — Hi baby, how are you?
ARABELLA KUSHNER: [enters room] Hi, Grandpa.
TRUMP: My granddaughter Arabella, who speaks — say hello to them in Chinese.
KUSHNER: Ni hao.
TRUMP: This is Ivanka. You know Ivanka.
IVANKA TRUMP: [from doorway] Hi, how are you? See you later, just wanted to come say hi.
TRUMP: She’s great. She speaks fluent Chinese. She’s amazing.
BAKER: That’s very impressive.
TRUMP: She spoke with President Xi [Jinping of China]. Honey? Can you say a few words in Chinese? Say, like, “I love you, Grandpa” —
KUSHNER: Wo ai ni, Grandpa.
BAKER: That’s great.
TRUMP: She’s unbelievable, huh?
TRUMP: Good, smart genes.
TRUMP: So the bottom line is this. The country’s doing well. We are, we are moving forward with a lot of great things. The unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 16 years. The stock market is the highest it’s ever been. It’s up almost 20 percent since I took office. And we’re working hard on health care. Um, the Russian investigation — it’s not an investigation, it’s not on me — you know, they’re looking at a lot of things.
HABERMAN: It’s a broad —
TRUMP: They’re looking at a big picture.
BAKER: This is why I want to come back to that email, because, like — does it concern you? Let’s say that the election didn’t change because of anything Russia did, which has been your point, right? You point —
TRUMP: By the way, it’s everybody.
BAKER: Right, your point is that Democrats are trying to use this as an excuse, fine. But did that email concern you, that the Russian government was trying something to compromise——
TRUMP: You know, Peter, I didn’t look into it very closely, to be honest with you.
TRUMP: I just heard there was an email requesting a meeting or something — yeah, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton, and I said — I mean, this was standard political stuff.
SCHMIDT: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?
TRUMP: No, I didn’t know anything about the meeting.
SCHMIDT: But you didn’t——
TRUMP: It must have been a very important — must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it.
HABERMAN: No one told you a word, nothing? I know we talked about this on the plane a little bit.
TRUMP: No, nobody told me. I didn’t know noth—— It’s a very unimportant — sounded like a very unimportant meeting.
BAKER: But on the date you clinched the nominations with New Jersey and California and the primaries, when you give the speech that night, saying you’re going to give a speech about Hillary Clinton’s corrupt dealings with Russia and other countries, and that comes just three hours after Don Jr. —
TRUMP: Number one, remember, I made many of those speeches.
BAKER: People wondered about the timing.
TRUMP: Many of those speeches. I’d go after her all the time.
BAKER: Yeah, I know, but——
TRUMP: But there was something about the book, “Clinton Cash,” came out.
BAKER: Yeah, a year earlier, though. But you were talking about——
TRUMP: But we were developing a whole thing. There was something about “Clinton Cash.”
TRUMP: Peter, that’s all I did, was make those speeches about her. … I don’t think I added anything much different than I had been doing. … I’ve made some very strong speeches about the corrupt emails. The 33,000 emails being deleted and bleached, and all of the things she was doing. I would make those speeches routinely. … There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying.
HABERMAN: [laughs] I’m sorry.
TRUMP: I mean, I was talking about, she deleted and bleached, which nobody does because of the cost. How she got away with that one, I have no idea. 33,000 emails. I talked about the back of the plane, I talked about the uranium deal, I talked about the speech that Russia gave Clinton — $500,000 while she was secretary of state — the husband. I talked about the back of the plane — honestly, Peter, I mean, unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.
HABERMAN: On Fifth Avenue——
TRUMP: I mean, look at what we have now. We have a director of the F.B.I., acting, who received $700,000, whose wife received $700,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton. ’Cause it was through Terry. Which is Hillary Clinton.
HABERMAN: This is [Andrew] McCabe’s wife, you mean?
TRUMP: McCabe’s wife. She got $700,000, and he’s at the F.B.I. I mean, how do you think that? But when you say that — and think about this for a second. I don’t think — you could give me a whole string of new information. I don’t think I could really have — there’s only so much. You know, you can only say many things. After that it gets boring, O.K.? How can it be better than deleting emails after you get a subpoena from the United States Congress? Guys go to jail for that, when they delete an email from a civil case. Here, she gets an email from the United States Congress —
BAKER: Should she be prosecuted now?
BAKER: Should she be prosecuted now? Why, then, should she not be prosecuted now——
TRUMP: I don’t want to say that. I mean, I don’t want to say.
SCHMIDT: Last thing.
TRUMP: You understand what I mean, Peter.
BAKER: I know.
TRUMP: I mean, supposing they were able to give me additional — it wouldn’t have helped me. I had so much stuff——
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller——
TRUMP: And I couldn’t have been better than the stuff I had. Obviously, because I won.
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?
HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].
SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?
HABERMAN: Would you consider——
TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.
HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]
SCHMIDT: What would you do?
TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
When treason became a Washington buzzword, the pushback came fast and furious.
Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian government attorney, a Russian government lobbyist and others to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton does not qualify as treason, the Washington Post explained, because of the language of the Constitution.
“Treason is a little extreme for this,” said law professor Richard Briffault. “[Russia] may not be our friend, but it is not clear they are our enemy. We are not at war.”
The very allegation is a sign of the “licentiousness of the press,” sniffed the Washington Times.
Team Trump has possibly violated 52 U.S. Code Section 30121, said the experts at Slate. And even on that petty charge, scholars dispute whether a foreign government’s opposition research constitutes a “thing of value.”
Such are the pedantic ways of commentators stuck in the pre-post-modern world where (they believe) their facts are inherently superior to “alternative facts” and legalisms will (one day) prevail over right-wing rhetoric, if only liberals play nice. It’s an attractive sentiment refuted only by reality.
The dismissal of the treason charge, wittingly or unwittingly, abets the White House strategy of improvising a new legal defense as law enforcement closes in on the perpetrators.
The claim that the Trump campaign had no contact with the Russians and that the charge of collusion was “disgusting” has morphed into the claim that collusion with a foreign power is just “politics,” and doesn’t meet the legal definition of treason.
The goal of this strategy is to exculpate Team Trump from criminal charges as new facts emerge. There’s no reason why Trump’s critics need to play along.
The commonsense definition of treason is “betrayal of country,” the standard that Team Trump has interpreted broadly for its own purposes.
Team Trump has no grounds for criticizing anyone for a loose definition of treason. For the White House, “treason” is a useful stick to bludgeon its opposition.
‘Effecting By Force’
Trump’s critics have a higher standard: treason is a plausible, if not yet proven, interpretation of the acknowledged facts.
Contrary to Professor Briffault, treason as defined in the U.S. Constitution and the law does not require that the enemy be “at war” with the United States. Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, “treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
The legal meaning of “levying war” is not synonymous with “at war,” nor does it require a formal declaration of war.
The definition of levying war is:
“the assembling of a body of men for the purpose of effecting by force a treasonable object, and all who perform any part however minute, or however remote from the scene of action, and who are leagued in the general conspiracy, are considered as engaged in levying war, within the meaning of the Constitution.”
The question is: Did Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort assemble with assorted Russian government representatives on June 9, 2016, for the “purpose of effecting by force a treasonable object?”
The question cannot be answered because we have not yet heard Kushner and Manafort’s account of the meeting. We don’t know what they hoped to effect. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is making inquiries.
What we do know is that the Trump White House’s account of the meeting is fraudulent (no, it wasn’t about adoption as the Trumps originally claimed) and that fraud can be a form of force.
In other words, the assertion of treason may be premature, but the accusation is not. The possibility of treason cannot be excluded based on the available evidence, as Senator Tim Kaine noted.
“Nothing is proven yet,” Kaine told CNN. “But we’re now beyond obstruction of justice in terms of what’s being investigated. This is moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason.”
The available evidence shows that the actions of Team Trump are potentially treasonous. The buzzword, properly modified, is precise, if not prescient.
Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017) and the 2016 Kindle ebook CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files.
This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.
“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” he said. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Describing a newly disclosed informal conversation he had with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a dinner of world leaders in Germany earlier this month, Mr. Trump said they talked for about 15 minutes, mostly about “pleasantries.” But Mr. Trump did say that they talked “about adoptions.” Mr. Putin banned American adoptions of Russian children in 2012 after the United States enacted sanctions on Russians accused of human rights abuses, an issue that remains a sore point in relations with Moscow.
Mr. Trump acknowledged that it was “interesting” that adoptions came up since his son, Donald Trump Jr., said that was the topic of a meeting he had with several Russians with ties to the Kremlin during last year’s campaign. Even though emails show that the session had been set up to pass along incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, the president said he did not need such material from Russia about Mrs. Clinton last year because he already had more than enough.
The interview came as the White House was trying to move beyond the Russia story and regain momentum following the collapse of health care legislation in the Senate. Relaxed and engaged, the president sat at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, with only one aide, Hope Hicks, sitting in on the interview. The session was sandwiched between a White House lunch with Republican senators and an event promoting “Made in America” week.
Over the course of 50 minutes, the often-fiery Mr. Trump demonstrated his more amiable side, joking about holding hands with the president of France and musing about having a military parade down a main avenue in Washington. He took satisfaction that unemployment has fallen and stock markets have risen to record highs on his watch.
At one point, his daughter, Ivanka, arrived at the doorway with her daughter Arabella, who ran to her grandfather and gave him a kiss. He greeted the six-year-old girl as “baby,” then urged her to show the reporters her ability to speak Chinese. She obliged.
But Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at Mr. Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key Cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.
“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”
Mr. Trump also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said he had not met with any Russians even though he had met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”
A spokesman for Mr. Sessions declined to comment on Wednesday.
The president added a new allegation against Mr. Comey, whose dismissal has become a central issue for critics who said it amounts to an attempt to obstruct the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election and any possible collusion with Mr. Trump’s team.
Mr. Trump recalled that a little more than two weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed him at Trump Tower on Russian meddling. Mr. Comey afterward pulled Mr. Trump aside and told him about a dossier that had been assembled by a former British spy filled with salacious allegations against the incoming president, including supposed sexual escapades in Moscow. The F.B.I. has not corroborated the most sensational assertions in the dossier.
In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believes Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,’’ Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.”
The president dismissed the assertions in the dossier: “When he brought it to me, I said this is really, made-up junk. I didn’t think about any of it. I just thought about man, this is such a phony deal.”
Mr. Comey declined to comment on Wednesday.
But Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials decided it was best for him to raise the subject with Mr. Trump alone because he was going to remain as F.B.I. director. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that he disclosed the details of the dossier to Mr. Trump because he thought that the media would soon be publishing details from it and that Mr. Trump had a right to know what information was out there about him.
Mr. Trump refuted Mr. Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.
“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”
Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a longtime former F.B.I. director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.
“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expands to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominately Democratic city.
He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”
As for Andrew G. McCabe, the acting F.B.I. director, the president suggested that he too had a conflict. Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received nearly $500,000 in 2015 during a losing campaign for the Virginia state Senate from a political action committee affiliated with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton.
In his first description of his dinnertime conversation with Mr. Putin at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Trump downplayed its significance. He said his wife, Melania, was seated next to Mr. Putin at the other end of a table filled with world leaders.
“The meal was going toward dessert,’’ he said. “I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.”
He noted the adoption issue came up in the June 2016 meeting between his son and Russian visitors. “I actually talked about Russian adoption with him,’’ he said, meaning Mr. Putin. “Which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don had in that meeting.”
But the president repeated that he did not know about his son’s meeting at the time and added that he did not need the Russians to provide damaging information about Mrs. Clinton.
“There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying,” he said. “Unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.”
The Russia Probe Is Now Focusing On Trump’s Digital Campaign
The Trump campaign’s digital strategy was overseen by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a senior adviser to the president. McClatchy reports investigators are looking at whether Trump’sdigital team collaborated with Russian operatives to target swing …
Deputy attorney general suggests he did not agree with Comey’s engineering leak
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein suggested he did not approve of former FBI director James B. Comey engineering a leak of information about a request from the president to shut down the bureau’s probe into former national security adviser …
Fox News Exclusive: Rosenstein says internal memos should stay ‘confidential,’ after ComeyleakFox News
Deputy AG: FBI agents have ‘obligation’ to keep memos confidentialThe Hill
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Quid pro quo?
Until now, the notion that Donald Trump was providing Russia and Vladimir Putin with concessions at the expense of U.S. interests was poorly supported. That all changed on Wednesday afternoon when the Washington Post revealed that Donald Trump ordered his national security advisor and CIA director to scrap a program that provided covert aid to anti-Assad rebels in Syria.
The president made that decision on July 7, within 24 hours of his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sources who spoke to the Washington Post accurately characterize it as a reflection of “Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia.” That is a fool’s errand but, more important, this move demonstrates that the United States is willing to cede ground to adversaries and bad actors as long as they are persistent enough.
I endeavored to demonstrate as thoroughly as I could why American interests in Syria and those of Russia not only do not align but often conflict violently. The president appears convinced, like his predecessor, that his personal political interests are better served by allowing Moscow to be the power broker in Syria—even if that makes America and its allies less safe.
Moscow has made it a priority to execute airstrikes on American and British covert facilities in Syria, and Donald Trump has just rewarded those air strikes on U.S. targets. Trump has sacrificed the goodwill he garnered from Sunni-dominated Middle Eastern governments when he executed strikes on Assad’s assets and, as recently as June, the U.S. downed a Syrian warplane for attacking anti-ISIS rebels laying siege to the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.
America will continue to provide support to indigenous anti-ISIS rebels, despite the fact that those forces are often under assault from both Russian and Syrian forces. It should be noted, however, that the CIA suspended aid to Free Syrian Army elements when it came under attack from Islamist in February. The agency said it didn’t want cash and weapons falling into Islamist hands, but this move exposes that claim as a mere pretext.
This concession to Russia is significant not just because it removes some pressure on Moscow’s vassal in Damascus. It sends a series of signals to the world’s bad actors, who will inevitably react.
The phasing out of aid for anti-Assad rebels (presumably the indigenous Sunni-dominated factions) gives Russia and Syria the only thing they’ve ever wanted: the ability to frame the conflict in Syria as one between the regime and a handful of radicals and pariahs. A cessation of aid will squeeze the remaining moderate, secular rebel factions in Syria and compel them to seek whatever assistance they can—even at the risk of augmenting the ranks of Islamist insurgents. How that advances America’s interests is entirely unclear.
This move will only further embolden not just Russia and Syria but their mutual ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran. It will convince the region’s Sunni actors that the United States is not on their side—a matter of increasing urgency in Iraq. The insurgency in Syria is unlikely to end so long as regional fighters have a means of getting into the country. America will simply sacrifice its leverage over those groups.
This move will confirm, finally, that the use of weapons of mass destruction in the battlefield is survivable. A truly resolute American administration might fire off a handful of Tomahawk missiles at an abandoned airfield, but regime change is not in the offing. That will only beget other bad actors who will test the parameters of America’s willingness to defend the international norms prohibiting the use of WMDs. Because American servicemen and women are stationed around the world in unstable theaters, the likelihood that they will one day be fighting on chemical battlefields just became a lot more likely.
American covert involvement in Syria also filled a vacuum that the Obama administration allowed to expand in 2011 and 2012. “One big potential risk of shutting down the CIA program is that the United States may lose its ability to block other countries, such as Turkey and Persian Gulf allies, from funneling more sophisticated weapons—including man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS—to anti-Assad rebels, including more radical groups,” the Washington Post speculated. Ironically, American withdrawal from the anti-Assad effort could actually fuel the fire, but in a way that we can neither control nor effectively influence. We’ve seen that movie before. We know how it ends.
And all of this is for what? To garner goodwill with the bloody regime in Damascus? To court Moscow or Tehran? There is nothing to gain from cozying up to these regimes that is not offset by the sacrifice of American national interests and moral authority associated with rapprochement. For all of the Trump administration’s criticisms of Barack Obama’s policy with regard to those regimes, this decision suggests he’s willing to double down on Obama’s mistakes.
Trump Quietly Gives Putin What He Wants
Until now, the notion that Donald Trump was providing Russia and Vladimir Putin with concessions at the expense of U.S. interests was poorly supported. That all changed on Wednesday afternoon when the Washington Post revealed that Donald Trump …
Trump is shutting down a secret CIA program in Syria
In a move that reflects his interest in working with Russia, President Trump has decided to end a covert CIA program supporting Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. In a move that Russia is likely to welcome, President Trump has decided to end a covert CIA program supporting Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. (The Washington Post)
(The Washington Post)
President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.
The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.
Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.
Just three months ago, after the United States accused Assad of using chemical weapons, Trump launched retaliatory airstrikes against a Syrian air base. At the time, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, said that “in no way do we see peace in that area with Assad at the head of the Syrian government.”
Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Spokesmen for the National Security Council and the CIA declined to comment.
After the Trump-Putin meeting, the United States and Russia announced an agreement to back a new cease-fire in southwest Syria, along the Jordanian border, where many of the CIA-backed rebels have long operated. Trump described the limited cease-fire deal as one of the benefits of a constructive working relationship with Moscow.
The move to end the secret program to arm the anti-Assad rebels was not a condition of the cease-fire negotiations, which were already well underway, said U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret program.
Trump’s dealings with Russia have been under heavy scrutiny because of the investigations into the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. The decision on the CIA-backed rebels will be welcomed by Moscow, which focused its firepower on those fighters after it intervened in Syria in 2015.
Some current and former officials who support the program cast the move as a major concession.
“This is a momentous decision,” said a current official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program. “Putin won in Syria.”
The decision will not affect a separate Pentagon-led effort to work with U.S.-backed Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State. And the CIA-backed rebels were part of the larger moderate opposition.
Some analysts said the decision was likely to empower more radical groups inside Syria and damage the credibility of the United States.
“We are falling into a Russian trap,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, who focuses on the Syrian resistance. “We are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable. . . . We are really cutting them off at the neck.”
Others said it was recognition of Assad’s entrenched position in Syria.
“It’s probably a nod to reality,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
U.S. intelligence officials say battlefield gains by rebels in 2015 prompted Russia’s direct military intervention on the side of the Assad regime. Some U.S. officials and their allies in the region urged President Barack Obama to respond by providing the rebels with advanced antiaircraft weapons so they could better defend themselves. But Obama balked, citing concerns about the United States getting pulled into a conflict with Russia.
Senior U.S. officials said that the covert program would be phased out over a period of months. It is also possible that some of the support could be redirected to other missions, such as fighting the Islamic State or making sure that the rebels can still defend themselves from attacks.
“This is a force that we can’t afford to completely abandon,” Goldenberg said. “If they are ending the aid to the rebels altogether, then that is a huge strategic mistake.”
U.S. officials said the decision had the backing of Jordan, where some of the rebels were trained, and appeared to be part of a larger Trump administration strategy to focus on negotiating limited cease-fire deals with the Russians.
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Earlier this month, five days into the first cease-fire in southwest Syria, Trump indicated that another agreement was under discussion with Moscow. “We are working on the second cease-fire in a very rough part of Syria,” Trump said. “If we get that and a few more, all of a sudden we are going to have no bullets being fired in Syria.”
One big potential risk of shutting down the CIA program is that the United States may lose its ability to block other countries, such as Turkey and Persian Gulf allies, from funneling more sophisticated weapons — including man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS — to anti-Assad rebels, including more radical groups.
Toward the end of the Obama administration, some officials advocated ending the CIA program, arguing that the rebels would be ineffective without a major escalation in U.S. support. But the program still had the support of a majority of top Obama advisers, who argued that the United States couldn’t abandon its allies on the ground and give up on the moderate opposition because of the damage that it would do to U.S. standing in the region.
Even those who were skeptical about the program’s long-term value, viewed it as a key bargaining chip that could be used to wring concessions from Moscow in negotiations over Syria’s future.
“People began thinking about ending the program, but it was not something you’d do for free,” said a former White House official. “To give [the program] away without getting anything in return would be foolish.”
Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow
President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials. The program was a central plank of a policy begun …
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a second, previously undisclosed conversation at the G20 summit earlier this month, The New York Times reports. The interaction, which may have lasted as long as an hour, occurred on July 7 during a banquet for G20 leaders and their spouses. Sources said that Trump walked over to Putin about halfway through the dinner and began the conversation. The pair relied exclusively on Russia’s translator, meaning no official U.S. government record of what they discussed exists. Sean Spicer said the President described the interaction as small talk and pleasantries and as lasting much less than an hour. Trump criticized coverage of the meeting in two tweets posted Tuesday evening calling it “sick.” Trump and Putin had met earlier that day on the sidelines of the summit in a closely scrutinized face-to-face meeting where they discussed topics that included Russian interference in the 2016 elections and a ceasefire in southwestern Syria.
The Supreme Court ordered that the Trump administration must expand the family relationships that qualify for exemptions from its travel ban, but said the administration could enforce tight restrictions on refugees, The Washington Post reports. The court partially denied the government’s request to stay the order from Hawaii’s federal district court that expanded the government’s definition of “close” family relationship to include grandparents, among others. But it did stay the part of the district court ruling that forced the administration to grant an exception to refugees with offers from refugee resettlement agencies. The government had asked the court to clarify the language in its initial June 26 ruling, but the court said that the litigation should proceed through normal channels, making the next stage in this case the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Trump has ended the covert CIA program that armed anti-Assad rebels in Syria, the Post reports. The program began under the Obama administration in 2013 to pressure the Assad regime, but some believed that Russia’s deployment of forces in 2015 undercut its effectiveness. Russia actively sought an end to the program, and critics of the move said it was a major concession to the Kremlin. Others have noted that it better reflects the reality of Assad’s entrenched position. The move could result in an influx of sophisticated weapons from Turkey and Persian Gulf allies flowing to rebel groups, including radical factions.
In the District of Columbia, warrantless requests for citizens’ cellphone location records or internet activity grew sevenfold in three years, the Post reports. In response to an open-records lawsuit, a federal judge released the information on requests made in cases handled by the Department of Justice or the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office between 2008 and 2016. The standard for obtaining the records is lower than that to obtain a search warrant.The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2014 that a warrant is required to search the contents of cellphones, and this fall it will address whether a warrant should be required to track a suspect’s location based on cell tower data. Experts believe the information revealed in the D.C. case could influence that ruling.
Mohammed bin Salman, now Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and next in line for the throne, plotted the ouster of rival Mohammed bin Nayef, the Times reports. Although the media depicted the shift as a relatively seamless transition, former U.S. officials and associates of the Saudi royal family said that it involved an all-night meeting in which officials pressured Nayef to step aside and told senior princes he was unfit to serve as king due to a drug problem. Reports have said that Nayef is now confined to his palace. The Wall Street Journal provided a detailed timeline of events and revealed that the Trump administration was tipped off about the power grab a week before it took place.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will decide whether the government of a single nation can force Google to remove search results anywhere in the world, The Wall Street Journal reports. The question stems from a dispute between French privacy regulators and Google over the E.U.’s “right to be forgotten” policy. In that ECJ decision, the court ruled that Europeans have a right to ask search engines to remove links from searches for their name if the links are old, irrelevant, or infringe on their privacy. While Google applied the policy to its websites within Europe, it resisted expanding it to other versions of its search engine, including Google.com. Regulators argue that individuals can easily mask their true location and thus access the information published on the other versions of the search engine. Several weeks ago, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Google had to remove links to certain content that violated intellectual property rights from all versions of its site, not only the Canadian version.
Yesterday the State, Justice, and Treasury Departments imposed new sanctions against 18 individuals and organizations they said support Iranian weapons procurement, missile development, and software theft, the Times reports. The announcement came less than a day after the Trump administration certified that Iran has been upholding its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a certification the administration must make every 90 days. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Wednesday that Iran will “stand up” to the U.S. if it imposes new sanctions and said that Iran will have an “appropriate answer” and that parliament will take action, though he did not provide specifics.
The Trump administration officially nominated former Utah governor Jon Huntsman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Politico reports. Huntsman has also served as ambassador in both Singapore and China and as the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, among other government and private sector positions. Huntsman initially endorsed Trump’s candidacy but called for him to withdraw from the race following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape.
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
Herb Lin argued that avoiding “getting caught” when conducting a cyber attack does matter at the point of insertion and anytime after.
J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, which covered the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, Israel’s rejection of the ceasefire in southwestern Syria, and the U.S.’s caveated reaffirmation of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.
Paul Rosenzweig noted that the SF-86 form required for a security clearance, which Jared Kushner has been criticized for twice failing to file correctly, is quite complex.
Andrew Kent responded to Robert Litt’s critique of his article regarding increasing the FBI director’s independence from the President through statutory for-cause limits on his removal.
Michel Paradis posted an excerpt of his Lawfare@FP piece exploring whether Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, or Paul Manafort could be charged under the Espionage Act.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.
Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow
President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials. The program was a central plank of a policy begun …
Trump and Russia – Google News
Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow
President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according toU.S. officials. The program was a central plank of a policy begun …
putin won US 2016 election – Google News
Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow
President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials. The program was a central plank of a policy begun …
Trump – Google News
Stop the “fake news” of all sorts and kinds and Russia’s Info War on the U.S.: Introduce the Information Consumer Protection Bill. They say, that the truth is a daylight or the disinfectant: everyone benefits from it.
A tough choice, a tall order, Donald, ain’t it?
The Freedom of Information Protection Agency, a hypothetical bipartisan body, should ideally fill out many voids and strengthen the democracies.
Stop the “fake news” of all sorts and kinds and Russia’s Info War on the U.S.: Introduce the Information Consumer Protection Bill. They say, that the truth is a daylight or the disinfectant: everyone benefits from it.
A tough choice, a tall order, Donald, ain’t it?
The Freedom of Information Protection Agency, a hypothetical bipartisan body, should ideally fill out many voids and strengthen the democracies.
|1. News in Photos from mikenova (4 sites)|
|WSJ.com: World News: Qatar’s Critics Scale Back Demands in Diplomatic Bid|
Four Arab nations locked in a dispute with Qatar said they have revised and curtailed their list of demands for Doha, in an overture aimed at moving toward a solution to the standoff.
WSJ.com: World News
|Saved Stories – None|
|Lt. Gen. Stewart spoke to students at the National Student Leadership Conference. Watch the video on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DIA|
Lt. Gen. Stewart spoke to students at the National Student Leadership Conference. Watch the video on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DIA
|No weapons system or concepts on how to fight should be designed today without context to how intel on foreign adversaries fits into it.|
No weapons system or concepts on how to fight should be designed today without context to how intel on foreign adversaries fits into it.
|DIA and @CIA are the only intel agencies with HUMINT (overt) and clandestine capabilities|
DIA and @CIA are the only intel agencies with HUMINT (overt) and clandestine capabilities
|DIA, @CIA and @StateDept are the only agencies who use all-sources of intelligence|
|Almost all our adversaries are going underground- building facilities, tunnels. We need to understand what they’re doing underground.|
Almost all our adversaries are going underground- building facilities, tunnels. We need to understand what they’re doing underground.
|“DIA has a presence in 140+ countries around the world” http://www.dia.mil/Careers/|
“DIA has a presence in 140+ countries around the world” http://www.dia.mil/Careers/
|What causes radical ideology to flourish? Click to 19:55 on video http://www.facebook.com/DIA|
What causes radical ideology to flourish? Click to 19:55 on video http://www.facebook.com/DIA
|Stop the fake news of all sorts and kinds and Russias Info War on the U.S. webworldtimes.com/blog/2017/07/1|
Stop the fake news of all sorts and kinds and Russias Info War on the U.S. webworldtimes.com/blog/2017/07/1
|Trump cannot make America govern itself again|
Washington gridlock has become a Republican habit
|Trump Slaps New Sanctions On Iran After Certifying Its Compliance With Nuclear Deal|
The U.S. said Iran’s ballistic missile program and Tehrans malign activities in the Middle East undercut any positive contributions from the 2015 deal.
|20 members of Congress demand FBI investigation into Ivanka Trump’s security clearance – ThinkProgress|
|Reluctant Trump recertifies Iran deal – The Hindu|
|Lebanon preparing for military operation near Syria border|
Lebanon is preparing a military operation to secure a lawless section of the border with Syria, Prime Minister Saad Hariri told parliament on Tuesday.
|Russia demands US return properties as talks reach no deal|
Russia stepped up pressure on the U.S. to return seized diplomatic compounds after talks ended without a deal, in a dispute that’s become a test of whether Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin can convert the personal rapport of their initial meeting into improved relations.
|Dem Rep: We Are Far Past Collusion With Respect to Trump and Russia|
Rep. Denny Heck (D., Wash.) told CNN host Kate Bolduan on Tuesday that the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia has now gone “far past collusion,” and called on the Trump administration to come clean.
» Stop the “fake news” of all sorts and kinds and Russia’s Info War on the U.S. webworldtimes.com/blog/2017/07/1… 19/07/17 11:59 from Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks mikenova shared this story from mikenov on Twitter. Stop the “fake news” of all sorts and kinds and Russia’s Info War on the U.S. webworldtimes.com/blog/2017/07/1… Posted by mikenov on Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 3:18pm
The problems with this logic and expectations are that these “good landlords” historically, never really, deliver. How sad, Donald!