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Trump's towering claim of power: He could take over Russia probe 'if I want'

President Donald Trump speaks during an event honoring

President Donald Trump speaks during an event honoring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection services in the East Room of the White House Monday. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

Checkmate on Constitution's balances?

When candidate Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, that "I alone can fix it," who knew how open-ended that could be?

Capping a day that began with his nastiest tweets yet about special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, Trump told Reuters in an interview Monday that while "I've decided to stay out . . . I don't have to stay out, as you know. I can go in and I could . . . do whatever. I could run it if I want."

Yes, Trump says that as president, he has the power to take over a probe of himself, his family and his associates over whether they improperly solicited and/or accepted from a foreign adversary and then sought to obstruct the investigators trying to determine what they had done. 

But for now, he holds back — aside from moving to strip security clearances from former and current officials he blames for plotting the "witch hunt," regularly upbraiding Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not doing enough to protect him and impugning Mueller's integrity on an almost daily basis. 

Trump's Monday morning tweetstorm lashed out at "disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs" who "are enjoying ruining people’s lives" and "are looking to impact the election."

After months of professing eagerness to be interviewed by Mueller, Trump now echoes the concerns of his top lawyer for the probe, Rudy Giuliani, who has warned of a “perjury trap.”

“So if I say something and he (former FBI Director James Comey) says something, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That’s no good,” Trump told Reuters.

Sue, sue, sue me, go try

There's no 15-yard penalty for taunting in the White House. So Trump on Monday dared former CIA Director John Brennan to sue over the revocation of his security clearance, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

“I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit,” Trump tweeted. “It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt.”

Later, Giuliani chimed in on Twitter to say Trump would let him and another of the president's lawyers, "handle the case," adding a dig: "Come on John you’re not a blowhard?" 

The blowhard question could easily be turned the other way as it's virtually certain such a case would be handled by government attorneys, not Trump's personal lawyers. 

Playing catch-up with 'truth'

Earlier, Giuliani took another stab at explaining his "truth isn't truth" comment on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

"My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic 'he said, she said' puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t," Giuliani wrote on Twitter.

Maybe he's jealous?

In a White House ceremony to honor immigration and border patrol officers, Trump invited Border Patrol agent Adrian Anzaldua to the mic with an aside to the audience that he "speaks perfect English." 

The president didn't attempt to pronounce Anzaldua's last name. He also repeatedly misidentified Customs and Border Protection by calling it the CBC. The correct acronym is CBP.

Trump commended the work of ICE officers leading to the arrest of hundreds of MS-13 gang members on Long Island over the past year, saying their efforts were “liberating towns.”

“I know Long Island very well . . . I grew up there essentially,” said Trump who was raised in Jamaica Estates, Queens.

Taking measure of Trump's brain trust

Most Americans don't think he delivered on a promise to hire the "best people" for his administration, according to a new Monmouth University Poll. Only 30% thought he has delivered while 58% say he has not.

The survey was taken amid the uproar over the tell-all book by former White House aide and "Apprentice" contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman. Stung by her allegations, Trump tried to make a case that he had hired her only because he felt sorry for her. A 54% majority said Trump did not show good judgment when he hired Omarosa.

Trump cuts Fed's rating

Rex Tillerson. Steve Bannon. Reince Priebus. Jeff Sessions. Trump has turned sour on a lot of his choices, and he doesn't seem too fond of his choice for Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell. Trump told GOP donors at a private Southampton fundraiser last week that he was upset with Powell for increases in interest rates, Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal reported. 

When he selected the chairman last year, the president said he was told by advisers that Powell liked “cheap money," but the fed has been raising interests rates. “That can only happen to Trump,” the president said ruefully, according to the Journal. 

In the interview with Reuters Monday, Trump confirmed he was "not thrilled" with Powell. But Trump will be stuck with him — the chair's term runs four years. Board members get 14-year terms to help insulate them from politics, and presidents rarely criticize them because the independence of the Fed is seen as important for economic stability.

What else is happening:

  • The president and Andrew Cuomo are sniping at each other now, but The Washington Post recalls Trump's first Cuomo feud was with the governor's father, who refused to back his bid in the 1990s for federal HUD mortgage insurance on a $356 million loan to build a luxury Manhattan housing development. Trump himself wrote that he screamed and cursed at then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo was HUD secretary at the time.
  • Melania Trump is planning a trip through several African countries in October — without her husband, who stirred an uproar earlier this year with his "shithole countries" remark about the continent. The first lady said her aims are to learn about issues that children there face and to appreciate Africa's "rich culture and history."
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden told Vanity Fair he's still mulling a run for the 2020 Democratic nomination. “I haven’t decided to run, but I’ve decided I’m not going to decide not to run. We’ll see what happens,” said Biden.
  • While serving on the Monica Lewinsky investigation in 1998, Brett Kavanaugh — now Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court — advocated asking President Bill Clinton extremely graphic questions about his sexual encounters with the White House intern, according to a document released Monday. They weren't asked.
  • The jury in the bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort ended its third day of deliberations on Monday without reaching a verdict.
  • Pentagon officials are worried that Trump immigration policies that have caused a steep drop in admissions of Iraqi refugees who have helped American troops in battle, Reuters reports. The concern is that U.S. national security will suffer if local populations are discouraged from cooperating with Americans in conflict zones.

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