Get ready for a long siege
The revelations have been coming at warp speed on all the curious contacts and connections between Donald Trump’s team and the Russians. It appears the investigations to sort them out will be slower, and may go on for a long time.
How long? It could take years, according to The Wall Street Journal (pay site).
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, appointed May 17, has opened offices and begun hiring staff. He brought two attorneys with him from his former law firm and he is expected to recruit more from within the Justice Department. One of his most urgent tasks is to propose a budget within 60 days.
As Mueller’s office gets up to speed, congressional committees have been forced to slow down.
The Senate Intelligence Committee had invited fired FBI Director James Comey to testify after Memorial Day, but no date is set. One reason, CBS News said, is that Comey has to work out with Mueller’s office what he can reveal in public testimony and what needs to be held back to protect the investigation.
The House Oversight Committee postponed a Comey appearance, and the FBI has put off deciding on the panel’s request for Comey’s notes on his meetings with Trump that reportedly describe pressure to shut down his investigation.
Trump is not about to fire son-in-law Jared Kushner. But the White House senior adviser is no longer untouchable when the president is ripping his staff, according to The New York Times.
Among Trump’s gripes against Kushner: The misjudgement of arguing that the firing of FBI Director James Comey would be a political “win.” Another: Kushner’s continued push to get rid of strategist and antagonist Steve Bannon. Trump won’t do it.
Most galling to Trump was the embarrassing news of Kushner’s sister dangling the availability of U.S. visas to Chinese investors she was seeking for the family company’s real estate project in Jersey City, New Jersey.
This was all before news emerged that Kushner is now the closest person to Trump of interest to the FBI’s Russia investigators.
Trump’s demean streak
Kushner still has it easy compared with nonfamily members of the White House staff. The Washington Post reports that under Trump’s management style, snubs and belittling jokes are part of the job, and even compliments come with zingers attached.
Allies call it good-natured teasing. Others see Trump fulfilling a constant need to build himself up by making others feel small. Trump friend Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, says, “I think it’s more New York swagger” than “trying to belittle.”
Trump expressed the nation’s “boundless” gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans in defense of the United States in his first Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Trump laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, holding his hands on it for a long moment before stepping away. He then rested his hand on his heart as a bugler played taps.
Trump’s proposed budget takes aim at a number of environmental programs across several agencies, reducing money used to enforce air and water rules, and eliminating funding for Long Island Sound and coastal research programs, reports Newsday’s Emily C. Dooley.
One example: It eliminates National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and education allocations, wiping out $262 million in funding, which includes money that now goes to the New York Sea Grant, Long Island Sound, Peconic Estuary and New York-New Jersey Harbor and Estuary programs.
The Trump administration said it is aiming to shift costs to local governments better able to handle regional issues.
Hate attack ‘unacceptable’
A tweet from Trump’s official @potus account Monday called “unacceptable” the crime Saturday in Portland, Oregon, in which two men were stabbed to death and a third wounded when they intervened with a man shouting anti-Muslim remarks at two young women.
“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them,” said the tweet.
It was unclear why the tweet didn’t appear on the better-known @realDonaldTrump account, which has 12 million more followers.
What else is happening
- Vladimir Putin heard an earful from another president about Russian election interference. Standing alongside the visiting Putin in Versailles, Emmanuel Macron said state-funded Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik spread “lying propaganda” against him during France’s presidential campaign.
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked two federal agencies to investigate “potentially fraudulent statements and misrepresentations” made by a Chinese company that promoted investments in the Kushner Companies’ Jersey City project.
- German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel took criticism of Trump further than Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing the U.S. president of “weakening” the West and standing “against the interests of the European Union.”
- The Trump family coat-of-arms on display at his U.S. golf course comes from another family — the British granted it in 1939 to Joseph Edward Davies, an American lawyer and diplomat, The New York Times reported. An heir says Trump never asked permission.
- North Korea’s missile program hasn’t slowed down, but Trump’s saber isn’t rattling as furiously as before. His Monday tweet: “North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile ... but China is trying hard!”
- Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who died over the weekend, was once described by a Senate subcommittee as “the best example in recent U.S. foreign policy of how a foreign leader is able to manipulate the United States to the detriment of our own interests.”
- There are signs Trump “may not be retaining all the intelligence he is presented,” the Washington Post reports.