Trump the untouchable?
When Donald Trump tweeted during the weekend that one of his reasons for firing Mike Flynn as national security adviser included lying to the FBI, it looked to some like he’d gifted evidence for an obstruction of justice case to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Why? Because, seemingly aware of the lying, Trump then asked FBI Director James Comey if he could see “letting Flynn go,” according to Comey, and later fired Comey over his pursuit of the Russia investigation.
Now, Trump lawyer John Dowd says a president — any president — is immune to obstruction charges. The “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told Axios.
Dowd, who says he drafted Trump’s Saturday tweet about Flynn, also declared: “The tweet did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion.”
Is there a presidential right to cover up crimes by themselves or close associates? That’s never been tested by criminal charges, but obstruction charges figured in impeachment efforts against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, notes The Washington Post.
White House counsel Donald McGahn told Trump in January he believed Flynn had misled the FBI and lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his Russian contacts and should be fired, a source told CNN.
Flynn was forced out in mid-February after news broke about his false accounts.
Trump: Poor Mike Flynn
Trump said Monday he feels “very badly” for Flynn — who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI under a cooperation deal with Mueller — because Hillary Clinton did worse.
“Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it’s a shame,” he told reporters on the White House South Lawn.
FBI officials have said publicly they have no reason to believe that Clinton lied during their investigation of her use of a private email server while she was secretary of State. Trump has repeatedly accused her of lying but offered no evidence. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Janison: Curiosity about K.T.
K.T. McFarland, of Park Avenue and Southampton, didn’t last much longer than Flynn on Trump’s National Security Council. But there is renewed interest about their time together from Democrats on Senate investigating committees, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
During the transition, she warned a colleague that President Barack Obama’s sanctions against Moscow for election meddling could make it harder for Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him.”
The White House said that isn’t what it sounds like — McFarland was talking about how Trump critics were framing Russia’s role. But The New York Times said emails from McFarland appear to contradict testimony she gave to Congress, in which she said she didn’t know anything about interactions between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
This travel ban might stick
The Supreme Court will allow full enforcement for now of Trump’s latest version of a travel ban on residents of six mostly Muslim countries.
While not a final ruling — challenges are winding their ways through lower courts — the action indicates that the high court might eventually approve it.
The justices offered no explanation for their order, but the administration had said that blocking the full ban was causing “irreparable harm” because the policy is based on legitimate national security and foreign policy concerns.
Moore of a priority
Trump is now all in for Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama accused of sexually preying on teen girls decades ago, when he was in his 30s.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and the GOP leaders of the Senate and House judged the women’s allegations credible. The president hasn’t said outright he believes Moore’s denials, but he’s more bothered by the prospect of Democrat Doug Jones winning the seat.
“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” Trump tweeted.
Trump closes post-Sandy panel
The Trump administration has disbanded an interagency group that was created after superstorm Sandy to help local officials protect residents against extreme weather and natural disasters, Bloomberg News reported.
The Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems advised on how to make buildings, communications, energy systems, transportation and water supplies more resilient.
The group is the latest in a series of federal climate-related bodies to be altered or terminated since Trump took office. “It was one of the last federal bodies that openly talked about climate change in public,” said its chairman, Jesse Keenan.
What else is happening:
- Trump has been reported recently to be voicing doubts that it was really him on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape boasting to co-host Billy Bush about grabbing women’s genitalia. Bush writes in a New York Times Op-Ed: “He said it ... Of course he said it.”
- Senate and House Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi say they’ve accepted an invitation to meet with Trump and GOP leaders Thursday to try to avert a government shutdown. The last attempt at a meeting fell through after Trump tweeted he saw no chance at a deal with them.
- Trump is urging Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is 83, to run next year for another six-year term. A key reason, according to Politico: to keep Mitt Romney, a longtime nemesis within the GOP, from seeking the seat.
- From Romney, a not-too-subtle subtweet jab at Trump: “Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. ... No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.”
- Trump’s Twitter tirade that the FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters” sparked retweets of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ posting from Nov. 3, 2016, when Hillary Clinton was under a cloud. “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing,” Huckabee Sanders tweeted then.
- The latest turns in the Mueller investigation are heightening paranoia among Trump aides and others in his orbit about wire-wearing informants in their midst, Politico reports. “Everyone thinks they’re being recorded,” a person close to the White House said.
- In Utah, Trump signed actions to drastically shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in the biggest rollback of public land protection in U.S. history. Native American tribes and environmentalists threatened lawsuits in response.