Thank me in advance
With North Korea and South Korea discussing an end to their 68-year state of war and plans for a nuclear arms summit advancing, President Donald Trump wants to make this clear: Credit is due him for anything good that has happened or will happen.
“They’ve been very generous that without us — and without me in particular, I guess, you would have to say — that they wouldn’t be discussing anything, including the Olympics would have been a failure,” Trump said before a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
Trump said the U.S. has had “direct talks at very high levels — extremely high levels — with North Korea” on setting up historic talks by early June between him and Kim Jong Un. CIA Director Mike Pompeo met secretly with Kim over Easter weekend, The Washington Post later reported. Trump confirmed this early Wednesday, at a moment when Pompeo's confirmation before the Senate looks less than bipartisan.
As always, there’s a “We’ll see what happens.”
“Assuming things go well, it’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meeting,” Trump said. Click here for a video excerpt.
Trump also slipped in a self-administered pat of his own back while praising China’s President Xi Jinping for pressuring North Korea.
“I think they have more respect for us, perhaps our leadership, but for us than they’ve ever had before,” he said.
Is Comey giving Trump ideas?
Continuing his book tour, former FBI Director James Comey told NPR that even if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, it wouldn’t stop the Russia investigation.
“If the president’s goal is to shut down an investigation, he would literally have to fire everyone in the Department of Justice and the FBI to accomplish that,” Comey said.
He also swatted back at Trump’s Twitter taunts that he should be in “jail.”
“The president of the United States just said that a private citizen should be jailed. And I think the reaction of most of us was, ‘Meh, that’s another one of those things.’ This is not normal,” Comey said.
Meanwhile, The New York Times writes that Comey’s personal potshots at Trump are undermining the image he has of himself as a lawman who stood above politics. But Comey is now out of office, which allowed him to say on Stephen Colbert's 'Late Show': "I've been like the breakup he can't get over."
Mueller muddied up
As Trump and his allies have stepped up attacks on the Russia investigation, Mueller’s favorability ratings have dropped, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, with Republicans showing the biggest negative shift.
Overall, 32% of all Americans hold a favorable view of Mueller, 30% view him unfavorably and 38% responded that they don’t know enough to have an opinion, the poll found.
Janison: Ryan’s nope
House Speaker Paul Ryan used a standard political excuse — family reasons — for saying no to seeking another term.
There were other good reasons, even if he didn’t say so. There’s discontent in his Republican conference, a real threat of Democrats capturing the House in November and his uneasy relationship with Trump. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Et tu, Gorsuch?
Trump has blamed liberal judges for putting up obstacles to his immigration policies. But what was he going to do after his very own pick for the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, went against him?
Gorsuch joined four liberal justices in a 5-4 ruling against part of a federal law that makes it easier to deport immigrants who have been convicted of violent crimes.
The court’s majority found the definition of violence too vague to be enforced. The case before the court concerned a legal immigrant convicted of burglary. The Obama administration also had argued for his deportation.
So Trump passed on judge-bashing. Instead, he tweeted a call to Congress to “quickly pass a legislative fix to ensure violent criminal aliens can be removed from our society.”
Haley: Don’t hang me out
During his brief tenure at the White House, Anthony Scaramucci introduced the term “front-stabbing” on how he’d contribute to the interpersonal dynamics inside the Trump administration. The Mooch is gone, the shivs remain.
Top economic adviser Larry Kudlow tried to explain Tuesday why Trump didn’t impose new economic sanctions on Russia Monday, a day after UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said he would. Haley “got ahead of the curve,” Kudlow said, and there “might have been some momentary confusion.”
Haley jabbed back in a statement to Fox News: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” Politico reports Trump approved the sanctions plan, but then chose to hold off. It seems no one told Haley before her Sunday talk show spot.
After Haley’s statement, Kudlow told ABC “I was wrong” and “She wasn’t confused.”
What else is happening
- Trump filed for a six-month extension for his 2017 federal income tax forms “as do many Americans with complex returns,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. As usual, there’s no expectation he’ll release the returns to the public in October, or ever.
- Sean Hannity and Trump have another lawyer in common besides Michael Cohen, The Atlantic found. Jay Sekulow from Trump’s Russia investigation team co-signed a warning letter to a radio station after a talk show guest said a “creepy” Hannity had invited her to his hotel room.
- Like Hannity’s audience, who listened to his rants against the FBI raids on Cohen, Fox News said Tuesday it didn’t know before Monday’s courtroom revelation that Cohen counted the commentator as a client. Fox said it doesn’t have a problem with it.
- Stormy Daniels claimed she was threatened over exposing her affair with Trump, and she and her lawyer released a sketch of the person. That baited Trump early Wednesday into calling it a "total con job."
- When a court ruled Attorney General Jeff Sessions couldn’t single out Chicago, a sanctuary city, for a freeze in a federal law enforcement grant, he suspended the entire program, cutting off funds to dozens of cities, The Marshall Project reports.
- Trump slammed California’s Democratic governor over a dispute on how to use the state’s National Guard troops. “Looks like Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security along their very porous Border,” Trump tweeted. But Brown said he was near an agreement with federal officials.
- The Trump administration is seeking to curtail or end a policy that allowed migrant women escaping domestic or sexual violence to seek asylum, Politico reports.