Looking for wriggle room
Years before Twitter, the nation tittered at President Bill Clinton’s response on whether a prior denial of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky was a lie. “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” Clinton said.
On Sunday, it was lawyer Jay Sekulow’s turn to try to redefine what a president’s words mean. At issue was his client Donald Trump’s tweet on Friday: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director.”
“There is no investigation,” Sekulow said repeatedly as he made the rounds of the talk shows.
Sekulow said Trump wasn’t confirming he was under investigation for obstruction of justice by special counsel Robert Mueller, report Newsday’s Emily Ngo and David M. Schwartz. No, Trump was just referring to a Washington Post story that said that.
So why did Trump say what he did? Sekulow blamed the social media platform’s 140-character-per-tweet limit. (See CNN clip here.) Which makes no sense, especially since Trump often uses consecutive tweets to get his point across.
Real crises, self-focused tweets
By mid-morning on Monday, Russia was warning that it would treat American-led coalition planes in part of Syria as targets after the U.S. shot down a Syrian jet. Also, the aftermath of another fatal public attack in London. Also, questions remain regarding accidental Navy fatalaties off Japan.
But to start off the day, Trump tweeted that everyone should watch his lawyer Sekulow appear on Fox & Friends, then attacked Democrats for opposing him on health care and border security -- and urged votes for a Republican Congressional candidate in Georgia who supports him.
It’s not close to being over
Sekulow called the Post story “fake.” The newspaper stood by it. Sekulow conceded that there could be an investigation of Trump underway without the president or his lawyers being notified yet.
A Trump tweet Sunday renewed his complaint of “a witch hunt.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’s aware that Trump is anxious to be proclaimed innocent, but “the FBI’s going to do their job, Mueller’s going to do his job,” and the best outcome is “a full and thorough and credible investigation that reveals everything.”
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who, like Rubio, sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the panel’s work in the Russia probe is far from concluded.
“I can say categorically that the collusion, the cooperation aspect of the investigation is not over. And as far as that goes, I’d say we’re 20% into it.”
Who is Jay Sekulow?
He just recently became a public face for Trump’s outside legal team, but Sekulow has been well-known for decades as a legal advocate for conservative Christian causes.
In 1987, he won a unanimous Supreme Court ruling upholding the right of Jews for Jesus to hand out religious pamphlets at Los Angeles International Airport. He has also represented Operation Rescue, a militant anti-abortion group, and fought Planned Parenthood, according to a 2015 Daily Beast profile.
The take-away: De-Obamazation
Trump has taken numerous steps during his five months in office to undo some Obama administration policies, though they are not necessarily getting rolled back all the way.
The latest example was the tightening of travel restrictions and business dealings with Cuba, while leaving the reopening of diplomatic relations and other steps that accompanied that in place.
But Trump’s emphasis on what he’s throwing out from Obama, rather than keeping, pleases his core fans. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Situation not wanted
The escalating investigations and turmoil is making it even harder for the Trump administration to fill many still-vacant top jobs, The Washington Post reported.
Republicans say they are turning down offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous, and are asking headhunters if their reputations could suffer permanent damage from serving Trump.
Not his last resort?
Trump usually spends weekends at his resort properties in Florida or New Jersey, but for the first time as president, he went to Camp David in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.
The government-owned retreat for presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt is more rustic than Trump’s usual gilded surroundings.
Before taking office, he snarked to European interviewers: “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”
But returning to the White House late Sunday with wife, Melania, and son Barron, he pronounced it “incredible,” “beautiful” and “very nice.” He also tweeted: “Military runs it so well and are so proud of what they do!”
What else is happening
- Trump didn’t post a personal Father’s Day 2017 greeting on Twitter, but Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that his dad’s classic from 2013 has “aged really well.” That one read: “Happy Father’s Day to all, even the haters and losers!” Around 6 p.m., Trump retweeted a “Happy Father’s Day” message from the @whitehouse Twitter account.
- Trump still hasn’t said whether he really taped his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. Sekulow said on one show Sunday that it will be revealed in the week ahead; on another, he said it will be next week.
- Trump’s new outside communications chief for the investigations, veteran GOP operative Mark Corallo, hasn’t joined the chorus trashing Mueller, Politico reports. Just before taking the job, Corallo said, “I don’t know if there is a finer human being than Bob Mueller.”
- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke — a Fox News favorite known for his ostentatious, bemedaled uniform and authoritarian rhetoric — says he won’t be accepting a tentative job offer as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security
- Business leaders are growing pessimistic that the president will be able to push an overhaul of the corporate tax code through Congress this year, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.
- Russia has renewed Trump trademarks originally obtained between 1996 and 2007 for hotels and branding deals that didn’t materialize. That protects his brand and preserves conditions for potential business deals there, The New York Times reported.