Et tu, Rosenstein?
Donald Trump says Andrew McCabe, formerly deputy director and briefly acting director of the FBI, is not to be believed. "So many lies ... He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged," Trump tweeted Monday.
But Trump has decided to believe one of McCabe's stories in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview — that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed with him whether Trump's behavior was a case for invoking the 25th Amendment. That would have meant going to Trump's Cabinet to see if a majority were prepared to remove him from office in the aftermath of Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.
"He [McCabe] and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught," Trump tweeted. Subsequent tweets called the never-carried-out plan "illegal and treasonous ... an illegal coup attempt."
Such a conversation wouldn't be illegal or treasonous. The 25th Amendment, along with impeachment, is a constitutional mechanism for removing a president judged unfit to continue serving. But whether it was well-advised to raise the idea, if that happened, or have word leak out, is another matter.
(In an NPR interview Monday, McCabe partially walked back his remarks, saying he didn't "perceive" there was an actual effort to remove Trump.)
A Justice Department statement said Rosenstein "rejects Mr. McCabe’s recitation of events as inaccurate and factually incorrect." A similar denial was issued last September following a New York Times account of his alleged involvement in 25th Amendment discussions. Rosenstein expected to be fired then, but he wasn't.
Trump is again casting a stink eye on Rosenstein, but the deputy attorney general had already been planning to leave in mid-March, a Justice official said Monday night. His supervision of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is no longer a complication. That job has now passed to the new attorney general, William Barr, who was sworn in last week. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The wall? Closing in
Sixteen states including New York and California filed suit to challenge Trump's national emergency declaration for building a wall on the Mexican border.
"We're going to try to halt the President from violating the Constitution, the separation of powers, from stealing money from Americans and states that has been allocated by Congress, lawfully," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on CNN.
Lawsuit plans to fight the declaration have also been announced by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Border Network for Human Rights and other groups. Public Citizen is suing on behalf of private landowners along the border who fear their land will be seized for barrier construction, Bloomberg News reported.
Janison: Wall above all
Trump suggested during his verbal ramble through the Rose Garden last week that there's enough unnecessary lard in his military budget to divert funds for his wall. In Trump's telling, the generals agreed with him that the wall "is far more important than what they were going to use it for," which "didn't sound too important to me."
ABC News reported that the cuts could include family housing for service members in Wisconsin and South Korea, schools on military bases in Germany, and upgrades to Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Air Force bases in Alaska. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.
Obama's hope for change
Former President Barack Obama has counseled more than a dozen declared or likely Democratic candidates about what he believes it will take to beat Trump in 2020, The New York Times reports.
That includes delivering a competing message that could resonate even in Republican-leaning areas.
Unlike in 2016, when he signaled a preference for Hillary Clinton, Obama plans to stand back as the primary contests unfold, though some Democrats hope he will step up near the end if one of the finalists has a better chance than the others of winning the general election.
Trump's vision for Venezuela
Speaking to a Miami crowd that included Venezuelan expatriates, Trump urged senior members of the South American country's military to abandon socialist President Nicolas Maduro and switch their allegiance to the leader of its congress, Juan Guaidó.
Trump urged the military to allow the humanitarian aid flown into Colombia by the U.S. to flow into Venezuela. It has been blocked at the border.
"We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open," Trump said. He also vowed the U.S. will "never be a socialist country" — a theme Republicans have been using against progressive Democrats.
What else is happening:
- Complaining on Instagram about the judge assigned to his case, Trump confidant Roger Stone posted her photo with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun sight. Through his lawyers, he formally apologized. He's facing trial on charges of lying about his WikiLeaks contacts.
- Trump's daughter Ivanka is among those being discussed by White House aides as the next UN ambassador, Bloomberg News reports.
- Trump's 2020 campaign is focusing its opposition-research efforts on Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, Politico reports. Trump has told allies he sees former Vice President Joe Biden as the strongest potential rival.
- One unknown about Bernie Sanders, if he runs again, is whether he can do better with African-American voters than in 2016, The New York Times reports. Black staff members from three years ago say their advice was largely ignored.
- The Trump administration is in discussions on having the U.S. and North Korea exchange liaison officers, a step toward formal diplomatic relations, CNN reported.