Trump: Show and tell the intel
As Rudy Giuliani tells it, there’s nothing unseemly about a president under an ongoing investigation demanding to know more about an informant for that investigation.
Giuliani explained to USA Today that there are, in a sense, two Donald Trumps: The subject of Robert Mueller’s investigation, and the president.
It was as president that Trump pressed Justice Department and FBI officials to share with his congressional allies highly classified information about the investigation and an informant’s role, said the president’s lawyer.
“He wants to make sure that the relevant members of Congress get a chance to see what they are entitled to see.”
Only it doesn’t end there. The subject of the probe — Trump — wants to see it, too. Giuliani said the documents will “indicate what the informant found” and “should be made available to us on a confidential basis,” Politico reported.
Trump met Monday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. They agreed, according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to meet with chief of staff John Kelly and congressional leaders to “review” the classified information that was sought.
It wasn’t entirely clear how freely the intelligence chiefs — who have resisted such revelation — would give it up.
Witch hunter gatherers
Trump accepted Rosenstein’s plan to have Justice’s inspector general look into whether there was infiltration or surveillance of his campaign for political reasons. Except Sanders said the probe will now be broader. It will “include any irregularities” with DOJ or FBI “tactics.”
To Democrats, Trump’s moves were a pure power play against Mueller.
“Giuliani removes all doubt — the White House effort to force DOJ to give investigatory materials to Congress is really about the defense team getting their hands on them,” tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), of the House intelligence committee. “If the president is charged with a crime, he has a right to see the evidence. Not before.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said: “The president’s behavior is the kind of grossly autocratic behavior we’d expect in a banana republic, not a mature democracy.”
Will Mueller time go overtime?
If Trump thinks he’s helping his cause of getting Mueller to go away faster, it isn’t working, said a Republican friend, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“I’ve told him many times that there’s no way to make an investigation like this shorter, but there’s lots of ways to make it longer, and he’s executed on a number of those ways to make it longer,” Christie said.
A vouch with an ouch
Stefan Halper — named in several reports as the informant — was recommended to the Trump administration for an ambassador’s job in Asia by Peter Navarro, now Trump’s trade adviser, Axios reported.
After getting a pitch from Halper, Navarro included him on a list of about a dozen names submitted to the transition team as candidates for posts in Asia, Axios said.
It wasn’t clear in the report whether Halper was active as an informant during that time. A Washington Post said the informant aided the Russia investigation both before and after Mueller’s appointment in May 2017. A profile of Halper is posted here.
Janison: Talk for show
On many fronts, there has been more talk than action from the White House, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
The China trade war that Trump said would be “good and easy to win” has been put off.
Extending prayers and support in the wake of last week’s high school massacre in Texas, Trump pledged to do “everything in our power to protect our students.” Previous pledges of the kind after the Parkland, Florida, shootings became vapor.
Adamant on ‘animals’
If there was any notion that Trump’s labeling of “MS-13” as “animals” was an off-the-cuff remark, the White House put it to rest Monday.
A press office statement — “What you need to know about the violent animals of MS-13” — listed brutal crimes attributed to the gang on Long Island as well as in Texas and Maryland, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reports.
Trump is expected to attend a forum on MS-13 in Bethpage on Wednesday, according to Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
Trade truce fragile
Trump touted his administration’s temporary truce with China on trade, tweeting that “Barriers and Tariffs to come down for first time.” He said that under “the potential deal,” China “will purchase from our Great American Farmers practically as much as our Farmers can produce.”
But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC that Trump is reserving the right to reimpose tariffs against Chinese goods if the two countries can’t agree on specifics.
Among the unresolved issues: U.S. demands to protect U.S. intellectual property and to reduce the overall trade deficit by $200 billion.
“These things cannot be fixed overnight,” Mnuchin said. See Figueroa’s story for Newsday.
What else is happening
- Trump hailed new CIA director Gina Haspel at her swearing-in after bashing one of her Obama-era predecessors, John Brennan, on Twitter. Trump quoted a “Fox & Friends” commentator who said Brennan “started this entire debacle” — meaning the Russia investigation.
- Reuters reports a source familiar with Mueller’s probe said that contrary to Giuliani’s comments Sunday, the special counsel doesn’t have a Sept. 1 target date for wrapping up the investigation of Trump. Giuliani’s story was “entirely made up,” the source said.
- National Security Adviser John Bolton gets outside advice from a coterie of longtime associates, The New York Times reports. Foremost among them is Matthew Freedman, a consultant for foreign governments who got kicked off the Trump transition team over concerns he was using the post to promote his business.
- Trump’s Twitter account has an impressive 52.1 million followers. But it may not reach as many voters as he thinks. A Gallup Poll found only 8% of U.S. adults say they follow the account and only 4% say they regularly read his tweets.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with even tougher sanctions unless it ends its “malign” military and regional activities, apart from its nuclear program. Pompeo called for negotiation of a new nuclear deal that would be far broader than the 2015 agreement that Trump renounced.
- The Republican National Committee has paid $451,779 to a law firm representing former White House communications director Hope Hicks in the Russia investigation, ABC News reported.
- Trump can't be bothered to use a cellphone with sophisticated security features to prevent hacking and surveillance, administration officials told Politico.