Trump for ‘the common good’

No one knew what to expect when Donald Trump, described even by allies as still learning what it means to be president, was confronted by a national shock like Wednesday’s shooting attack on Republicans from Congress. Partisans on both sides agreed: He rose to the occasion.

Trump performed the role of consoler-in-chief, choosing to soothe rather than inflame, after an assailant sprayed gunfire at a GOP practice in Alexandria, Virginia, for the annual congressional baseball game for charity.

Unlike after the Orlando nightclub massacre a year ago, when he “appreciated the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump didn’t make it about himself.

“We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” Trump said. “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” the president added.

Click here for video of Trump’s statement. Read the story by Newsday’s Tom Brune.

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The take-away: Whataboutism

While Trump stayed on the high road, “what about” battles broke out on Twitter and other platforms between his fans and foes, as well as opposing camps on gun control and other polarizing issues, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Republicans pointed at anti-Trump and anti-GOP rhetoric — including Facebook posts by the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, who had been a Bernie Sanders supporter. Democrats recalled Trump’s campaign comment that “Second Amendment folks” could stop Hillary Clinton if she were elected.

Trump now a focus of probe

What FBI Director James Comey told Trump before he was fired — that he wasn’t under investigation — no longer applies. Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice, The Washington Post reported.

That expansion of the inquiry began days after Comey’s May 9 firing, the report said, and senior intelligence officials will be interviewed by Mueller’s office as early as this week.

In late March, officials said, Trump phoned Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers to ask them to issue statements that there was no evidence of coordination between his campaign and the Russian government. They refused.

A spokesman for Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, told the Post, “The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.” Curiously, the story didn’t point to FBI officials as sources.

Thursday's tweets

After noting on Twitter his visit to Steve Scalise at the hospital, Trump on Thursday griped predictably: "They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice". Trump didn't mention in this non-denial if the story leaked out of the White House or came from elsewhere.

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And then came this: "You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people!  #MAGA"

Muddying up Mueller

While the White House has sought to cool down reports that the president has considered firing Mueller, saying he had “no intention” of doing so, some in Trump’s inner circle are seeking to sow doubts about the head of the Russia investigation.

Kellyanne Conway tweeted a CNN story that four members of Mueller’s legal team have donated money to Democrats (P.S.: So has Trump.) Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the same story, along with a USA Today opinion piece that argued Mueller is too close to fired FBI Director Comey.

Mueller is moving ahead. He met Wednesday with Senate Intelligence Committee leaders about avoiding conflicts between their respective investigations.

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Democrats’ gift rap for Trump

Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress are suing Trump, alleging that by retaining interests in a global business empire, he has violated constitutional restrictions on taking gifts and benefits from foreign leaders.

The plaintiffs argue they have standing to sue because the clause says only Congress may approve foreign gifts and payments. “The framers gave Congress a unique role, a unique right and responsibility,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who helped organize the lawsuit.

Shy or sly buyers

Since Trump won the Republican nomination last year, the majority of his companies’ real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers’ identities, USA Today reports.

Over the past 12 months, about 70% of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies. That compares with about 4% of buyers during the two years before that.

Ethics watchdogs say people who want to court favor with Trump could snap up multiple properties or purposefully overpay, without revealing their identity publicly, the report said.

What else is happening

  • Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, opening the door for future increases, Reuters reported.
  • Voting patterns in Virginia’s primary for governor are being examined for possible trends, Politico writes. GOP turnout was low — but the candidate who most tightly embraced Trump nearly pulled an upset over his mainstream rival. Democratic turnout was way up.
  • The Chinese government has granted preliminary approval for nine Donald Trump trademarks it had previously rejected, in whole or in part, The Associated Press reported, prompting speculation about special treatment.
  • The Trump administration is suspending two Obama-era rules for forgiving loan debt of students cheated by for-profit colleges, saying it needs to rewrite the regulations.
  • The Senate voted 97-2 to approve a bipartisan package of new Russia sanctions that could block Trump from easing or ending penalties against Moscow. It’s uncertain whether the House will go along.
  • An Associated Press-NORC poll found 65% of Americans think Trump has little or no respect for the nation’s democratic institutions. His job approval was 35%.