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Are Trump tweets on Mueller witnesses a tamper tantrum?

The judge sentencing Michael Cohen, seen in August,

The judge sentencing Michael Cohen, seen in August, should show him no mercy, President Donald Trump tweeted Monday. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

They could be loyals

Here's a boast Donald Trump hasn't made (though that's no guarantee he won't some day): "I'm the most subtle person you'll ever meet."

Pressing his tweeting thumbs down hard on the scales of justice, Trump said the judge sentencing Michael Cohen, who is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, should show no mercy. He hailed Roger Stone, whose role in the WikiLeaks dump of stolen Democratic emails is under scrutiny, for vowing Sunday that he won't testify against Trump. Wrote Trump, in another broad hint that stonewalling Mueller could earn a presidential pardon: "Nice to know that some people still have 'guts!’ ”

"File under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512" — sections of U.S. code dealing with witness tampering and obstruction of justice," tweeted conservative lawyer and Trump critic George Conway (or as Trump calls him, "Mr. Kellyanne Conway.")

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, ranking member of the Senate intelligence committee, said, "The President of the United States should not be using his platform to influence potential witnesses in a federal investigation involving his campaign."

To Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the president was merely encouraging someone not to tell lies to Mueller, who Trump called "a rogue and out of control prosecutor" intimidating witnesses "to make up lies and stories about 'President Trump.’ ”

For Cohen, his once-loyal lawyer and fixer, Trump was in full lock-’im-up mode. "You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal" and "should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence," one tweet said.

But some of Cohen's confessed crimes are related to the president.

His August plea in a case brought by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office included campaign finance violations for payoffs — at Trump's direction, Cohen said — of two women who said they had affairs with Trump. In a deal last week with Mueller, Cohen also admitted that he lied to Congress about pushing a plan while Trump was running for president to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He is seeking leniency for his cooperation. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12.

Drove a hard bargain?

Trump may have oversold what he got China's Xi Jinping to agree to when they talked trade at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Trump tweeted late Sunday night that "China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the U.S. Currently the tariff is 40%."

But on Monday, top economic adviser Larry Kudlow would not say when that would happen. "We don't yet have specific agreement on that," he said. "I will just tell you, as an involved participant, we expect those tariffs to go to zero." Chinese officials did not mention auto tariffs as part of the 90-day trade-war truce.

More confusion: The initial weekend statements from the White House indicated the 90 days would start immediately. Kudlow said it would begin Jan. 1. The White House said Monday afternoon that Dec. 1 was the correct date.

Meanwhile experts warn that the widely hailed agreement regarding China's lethal fentanyl flow to the U.S. could have an eventual, not immediate, impact.

Janison: Overlooked oversight

When Democrats take over the House in January, there will be more than Trump's personal business dealings and potential conflicts coming under investigative scrutiny, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Tougher oversight can be expected across a range of federal agencies.

One example is the Department of Veterans Affairs. The news site ProPublica has posted accounts of how three Trump associates from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida have been steering the VA, although none have relevant expertise. They have had backroom input on contracts, job candidates and budgets.

One less obstacle for the wall

In a win for Trump, the Supreme Court will let his administration bypass environmental laws that could get in the way of plans to build a wall along the Mexican border.

The high court declined to hear a challenge on constitutional grounds to separate laws passed in 1996 and 2005 that gives the executive branch authority to waive "all legal requirements" that could interfere with construction of barriers and roads near the border.

Getting the money for the wall is another matter. Trump tweeted a threat to "close the entire Southern Border if necessary" while pressing Democrats to approve the $5 billion in funding he has demanded.

Farewell to arms?

Trump speaks proudly of winning boosts in military spending, but on Monday he tweeted a lament about "an uncontrollable arms race" and a hope that he can negotiate a halt to it with Russia and China.

The president said in a tweet that the U.S. has spent $716 billion this year, an amount he called "Crazy!" His statement appeared to confuse the total Defense Department budget with America's investment in the nation's missile defense systems and the strategic nuclear weapons usually associated with the arms race — about $10 billion this year.

Keeping up with the Conways

It’s not clear if anyone asked him, but Trump's son Eric thought it was a good time to stage an intervention via Twitter on how Kellyanne and George Conway manage the divergent politics in their marriage:

"Of all the ugliness in politics, the utter disrespect George Conway shows toward his wife, her career, place of work, and everything she has fought SO hard to achieve, might top them all. @KellyannePolls is great person and frankly his actions are horrible."

What else is happening:

  • Mueller's prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are “tying up loose ends” in their investigations, suggesting it may come to a climax in the new few weeks, Yahoo News reported.y 
  • Paul Manafort, the now-convicted ex-Trump campaign chairman, traveled to Ecuador in May 2017 on a proposed business deal -- and ended up discussing fugitive Julian Assange's status with the nation's president, the Times reports.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at Trump critics in a Brussels speech early Tuesday.
  • Trump's tweet on Cohen said the plea deal let his ex-lawyer's wife and father-in-law, who were also under investigation, get off "Scott Free." The word referees at Merriam-Webster weighed in on Twitter that "scot-free" means "completely free from obligation, harm, or penalty," while "Scott Free" is "some guy, probably."
  • A Giuliani punctuation error in a tweet attacking Mueller accidentally created a dormant hyperlink, and a trolling prankster seized the opportunity. Clicking on the link led to a web page that said, “Donald J. Trump is a traitor to our country.” Before naming him to his legal team, Trump picked Giuliani to be a cybersecurity adviser.
  • It's unclear whether it was intentional, but Trump's tweet saying relations with Beijing have taken "a BIG leap forward" was a reminder of a tragic chapter in China's Communist history. Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward" industrialization campaign from 1958 to 1962 left tens of million dead from famine and state-sponsored killings.
  • Trump lawyers want porn star Stormy Daniels to pay them $340,000 in legal bills they say were racked up while successfully defending the president against her defamation claim.
  • House leaders introduced a bill that will put off a partial government shutdown threat by two weeks, with a new deadline of Dec. 21 to agree on spending. Events to memorialize the late President George H.W. Bush has essentially shut down congressional business this week.

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