Mueller's day and beyond
The Democrats who grill Robert Mueller on Wednesday want to spotlight Donald Trump's conduct. The Republicans want to shift attention to the investigators' conduct.
Neither side is likely to use their time for one of the most critical findings of the special counsel, which was about Russia's conduct. The Mueller report found that Vladimir Putin's government "interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion." And FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday that Moscow is still at it, looking now to 2020.
“The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections,” Wray said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "Until they stop, they haven’t been deterred enough."
Asked if he has briefed Trump about the threats, Wray responded, “We have had a number of meetings with others in the (White House) National Security Council.” Small wonder. The very mention of the subject triggers rage in Trump as casting doubt on the legitimacy of his November 2016 victory.
Mueller's report was far from the "total exoneration" Trump claimed. It left open the question of whether he sought to obstruct justice in failed attempts to halt the investigation into how Russia sought to boost Trump and how his campaign signaled it welcomed such help.
But when Mueller appears before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees under Justice Department constraints to stick to what's in his report, Mueller may say he can't answer much-anticipated questions, such as would he have charged Trump with obstruction if the Justice Department didn’t have a rule saying he couldn’t indict a sitting president?
The hearings will be carried live on national and cable networks starting at 8:30 a.m. To help follow along with the testimony, Mueller's full report is on Newsday.com. For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune.
ICE raids a bust
Trump forecast big results ahead of the ICE raids that were launched around the nation July 14 to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. "We're taking them out by the thousands," declared Trump, while officials said they would target more than 2,000 people for removal. Later, Trump called the raids "very successful."
On Tuesday, acting ICE Director Matthew Albence announced the results: 35 arrests.
Albence wouldn't blame Trump's hyping of the raids in advance for the low number, saying there had been other media reports about the plan in the weeks before. “You didn’t hear ICE talking about it before the operation was taking place,” Albence told The New York Times.
But he conceded the agents had lost the element of surprise, and that efforts by immigrant advocates to remind potential raid targets of their rights also had an effect.
Janison: Swagger and stagger
Tough talk, sanctions and tariffs have failed to achieve Trump's foreign policy goals on three fronts, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Six months after the leader of Venezuela's National Assembly declared himself president, with U.S. support, dictator Nicolas Maduro remains in control of his once oil-rich country.
Trump's sanctions and "maximum pressure" against Iran has brought more hostility, not concessions.
There's still no end in sight to the trade war with China. Negotiations may extend into next year, which could add pressure on U.S. negotiators to create some show of success while Trump is seeking re-election.
9/11 fund bill sent to Trump
The long battle to make the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund permanent for all those suffering from the 2001 terrorist attack’s toxic aftermath ended in victory Tuesday when the Senate passed it, 97 to 2.
The bill now goes to the White House, where Trump is expected to sign it into law. The legislation extends the fund until 2092 to cover the lifetimes of those affected, makes up shortfalls in awards due to inadequate funding, removes caps on some noneconomic damages and adjusts awards for inflation over time.
Former police and firefighters from New York, several of them ailing, and activist John Feal and former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart clapped and cheered the victory from the Senate gallery. Read Newsday's story by Brune.
Trump suit: No returns
Trump filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against New York State Attorney General Letitia James, the state’s tax commissioner and the House Ways and Means Committee to block any effort to turn over his New York tax returns for congressional investigations.
The lawsuit comes two weeks after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a measure passed by the State Legislature that authorizes the release of Trump’s state income tax returns to select congressional committees, including Ways and Means. That panel's chairman has previously signaled that he was not likely to seek the New York returns and was focusing his efforts on Trump's federal returns. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Fernandez.
Trump on Tuesday gave a group of teenage fans a lesson on the Constitution, according to Trump. They would be well advised to crack open a book on the subject if it's going to come up on an exam.
In an aside while complaining about the Mueller investigation at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit, Trump said, “Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president."
As The Washington Post explains, Article II grants the president "executive power." It does not indicate the president has total power. Article II is the same part of the Constitution that describes some of Congress' oversight responsibilities, including over the office of the presidency. It also details how the president may be removed from office through the impeachment process.
Trump also renewed his attacks for a 10th day on the four progressive congresswomen known as "the Squad" and said he can name at least 20 Democrats who, in his opinion, "are in many ways worse."
What else is happening:
- Trump will attend a re-election fundraiser in Bridgehampton on Aug. 9 hosted by real estate tycoon Joe Farrell, with tickets ranging from $2,800 to $250,000, CNBC reported. Among the 2020 Democrats also heading to the Hamptons to raise money are Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.
- The president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, asked for a "clarification" of Trump's comment Monday that he could win the war there in a week and "Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth" but "I just don't want to kill 10 million people."
- About 3.1 million people would lose food stamp benefits under a Trump administration proposal that would tighten eligibility requirements by removing those who are automatically enrolled by receiving welfare benefits.
- Ivanka Trump's congratulatory tweet for Boris Johnson went awry as she referred to him as "the next Prime Minister of the United Kingston." She's gotten "United Kingdom" right in past tweets, so the autocorrect or suggestions feature on her iPhone could be an alibi, wrote Britain's Independent.
- It's going to be tough for "Saturday Night Live" to lampoon Trump's third press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, as it did her predecessors Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Grisham, who also is communications director, hasn't held a briefing or given TV interviews, and most Americans don't know what her voice sounds like, Politico writes.
- Biden is proposing to reverse several key provisions of the 1994 crime bill he helped write, in an acknowledgment that his past positions are less popular among today's Democrats. He now favors an end to the federal death penalty and disparities in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine.