Down with dirty
The welcome mat put out by Donald Trump's campaign for Russian-hacked information dumps didn't make it a conspiracy, Robert Mueller's report found. But was it the right thing to do?
“There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on CNN's "State of the Union." So then, it's OK for campaigns to run with material stolen by foreign adversaries of the U.S.? “It depends on the stolen material,” he replied on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Giuliani's round of Sunday talk show appearances marked the return of his "So what?" shrugs to episodes of questionable behavior by the president, such as the porn star payoff Trump once lied about — "perfectly legal."
As for whether it was ethical to use the Russian-supplied information, Giuliani said that's irrelevant. “We’re gonna get into morality? That’s not what prosecutors look at, morality,” he said. “This didn’t become an international scandal because of immorality. It became an international scandal because the president was accused of violating the law, falsely.”
Morality was at the heart of a sharp rebuke of Trump by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) after the redacted version of Mueller's report was released. "I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president,” Romney said. “I am also appalled that, among other things fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia."
Giuliani lit into Romney: “What a hypocrite." Without any evidence, he then accused Romney of doing similar things as a White House contender. “Any candidate in the whole world in America would take information,” Giuliani said.
Lanhee Chen, who was Romney's 2012 policy director, told The Washington Post: “If anyone in our campaign team had come across any foreign actor trying to provide information or influence our thinking, we certainly would have reported it to proper law enforcement right away."
To impeach or not impeach?
For Democrats, there's no quick answer to that. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on ABC's "This Week" that the House Democratic rank-and-file will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the matter and "I’m going to reserve judgment … until we’ve had a chance to fully deliberate on it.”
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) said on "Meet the Press” that "obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable" and “There is plenty of evidence of obstruction.” But he added that it "hasn’t been proven yet."
Part of the Democrats' dilemma is whether it makes sense to start the process when it looks unlikely that enough Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate would vote to convict an impeached Trump and remove him.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that even if that were the outcome, "history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution." But that's not a yes for impeachment from Cummings. "I'm not there yet, but I can foresee that possibly coming," he said.
For more see Newsday's story by Scott Eidler.
Going for McGahn
Nadler said his committee will call former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. The Mueller report found McGahn thwarted Trump's attempts to fire the special counsel and concoct false stories about the effort.
After the report's release, McGahn became a target of Trump's wrath on Twitter as a source of "fabricated & totally untrue" statements. Giuliani also has attacked the account McGahn gave Mueller's investigators, saying, "It could be the product of an inaccurate recollection or could be the product of something else.” A lawyer for McGahn said the incidents his client spoke about were "accurately described in the report."
The Democratic-led House committees also plan to call Mueller and Attorney General William Barr as witnesses.
Gillibrand's brand not yet selling
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bid for the Democratic 2020 nomination is foundering, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo.
She hovers around 1% in national polls. Fundraising for the first quarter came in under $3 million, way back in the pack. Her CNN town hall drew one of its lowest ratings.
Looking for an upside, Gillibrand's team said it's still very early.
“Our campaign’s strategy from day one has focused on Kirsten’s ability to win over a room,” a memo to supporters last week said. “This intentionally local approach doesn’t focus on winning the national news cycle, the Twitter primary or even statewide polling this early in the game.”
NYT: Why Cohen felt forsaken
For months after he was raided by the FBI, Cohen sent signals to Trump and his team appealing for help with his legal woes, according to The New York Times.
Cohen hired a longtime friend of Giuliani's, Robert J. Costello, to represent him, hoping that bond would help preserve the relationship from his service as Trump's fixer. But Trump and Giuliani would not or could not put Cohen's financial and emotional insecurities to rest.
Giuliani told the Times that the Trump team had pulled back from Cohen because prosecutors might have viewed friendly overtures as witness tampering and because Cohen’s legal problems extended beyond his relationship with the president. “The more I look back at it, the more I wonder if it was inevitable that Michael was going to crack,” Giuliani said.
Cohen's spokesman, Lanny Davis, suggested that the Trump team had initially tried to keep Cohen in “the liar’s club” of people covering for the president. The Times said Cohen was still having second thoughts about pleading guilty and implicating Trump in the Stormy Daniels cover-up until the day he appeared in court and did so.
What else is happening:
- Trump wished his Twitter followers "Happy Easter" and congratulated himself that "your Country is doing so well" in his morning tweets. He also attacked the Mueller investigation and extended condolences to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka before attending church services near Mar-a-Lago.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden is poised to announce this week that he's joining the 2020 race, CNN reported.
- If Bernie Sanders becomes a front-runner after the early primaries, he will face pressure to do something that eluded him in 2016 — making nice with Democratic party leaders to unite the party, The Washington Post writes.
- New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker got into the race with a message of love and unity, but it wasn't resonating with a Democratic base in a Trump-fighting mood, Politico reports. Last week, Booker sought to reboot his campaign with a “Justice For All” national tour heavy on economic policy proposals and social justice messaging.
- Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies that would aid one of his former lobbying clients on California water issues within weeks of joining the Trump administration, Politico reports.