Forgive them not
Donald Trump used his presidential pardon power to help out two conservative heroes, former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and Bush administration official Scooter Libby. Would he also use it to protect those close to him, or who could flip against him, in the Russia and Michael Cohen investigations?
It’s enough of a concern for New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman that he asked the legislature in Albany Wednesday to safeguard his authority for seeking state charges against anyone who is pardoned.
The state has overlapping jurisdiction in some federal matters under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, such as financial crimes, making the New York AG a potential prosecutorial backstop if Trump shuts down Mueller.
But current New York law prevents people from being prosecuted more than once for crimes related to the same act, even if the original prosecution was in federal court. Schneiderman wants an exception to the double-jeopardy law for cases involving presidential pardons.
In Washington, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would give Congress oversight of any Trump pardon in the Russia investigation or a family member. Schiff told USA Today that his bill “would allow Congress to determine whether a pardon is an effort to obstruct justice.”
The efforts by Schneiderman and Schiff, both Democrats, face hurdles with Republican lawmakers.
Trump allies centerfold their tent
In the wake of the Cohen raids, former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal won’t have to fight in court to be let out of a contract that barred her from talking freely about an extended sexual affair with Trump a decade ago.
Trump-friendly American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, which bought McDougal’s story in 2016 for $150,000 and buried it, settled a lawsuit in what her lawyer called “a total win.”
McDougal had charged Cohen inappropriately intervened in the silencing effort, and materials seized by the FBI in the Cohen raids included information about American Media and the model’s suit, The New York Times reported.
The settlement means McDougal’s side will no longer seek to question Trump.
Trump has said he didn’t know about Stormy Daniels getting paid $130,000 by Cohen to keep quiet. He denies he and the porn star had a sexual fling. And now, for the first time, he’s attacking Daniels directly — ridiculing her account of being physically threatened to keep quiet.
Reacting to release of a sketch of a man Daniel said confronted her, Trump tweeted: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” See Laura Figueroa Hernandez’s story for Newsday on Trump’s Twitter musings Wednesday.
Janison: Turkey tangle
For a while, Trump seemed to be seeking better relations with Turkey and its strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But Erdogan couldn’t get key things he wanted, including the extradition of a dissident Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania and U.S. abandonment of Kurdish forces in the region.
Now Trump wants something. He tweeted an appeal for Turkey to release an American Christian pastor facing charges that he was connected to a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016. Andrew Brunson “is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” Trump tweeted. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Trump: Am I yelling fire?
Trump has persistently been reported to have looked into getting rid of Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel.
Asked during a Mar-a-Lago news conference if he was going to fire them, Trump went into his familiar, lengthy “no collusion” litany about why the Russia investigation is a “hoax,” before not quite addressing the question.
“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” Trump said. “We are hopefully coming to an end,” Trump said of the Mueller probe.
Earlier, he tweeted, “Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation.” Except Trump said after the May 2017 firing that “this Russia thing” was on his mind when he decided to do it.
Comey: On the other hands ...
Comey confesses to second thoughts over the digs on Trump’s personal appearance in his memoir, such as the president’s “slightly orange” complexion and hands that are “smaller” than his own.
“If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t put that paragraph in ... just because it gave people a handhold who hadn’t read the book to attack the book,” Comey said on ABC’s “The View.” The descriptions created a “distraction” from his larger themes, Comey said.
What else is happening
- Paying tribute to Barbara Bush, Trump noted she and former President George H.W. Bush were married 73 years, and remarked, “I’ll never beat that record.” Fact check: True. Melania Trump plans to attend Barbara Bush’s funeral in Houston Saturday, the first lady’s spokeswoman said.
- Financial markets and world leaders are learning to ignore Trump's impulsive, mood-driven blurting of positions.
- Federal prosecutors are still haggling with lawyers for Trump and Cohen over the process for determining whether any of material seized in the raids is protected by attorney-client privilege. See John Riley’s story for Newsday.
- Trump tweeted he’s skeptical again about rejoining the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact. “While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States.” Actually, South Korea won’t mind. They’re not part of it.
- CIA director Mike Pompeo’s personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un in pursuit of a summit between the North Korean leader and Trump may have helped his cause to be confirmed as secretary of state, The Washington Post reports.
- White House incoherence on Syria worries lawmakers in both parties.
- Sweden and Switzerland are among the places under consideration for a Trump-Kim summit, Bloomberg News reported.
- Despite his contention that he had to fly in first class for security reasons, EPA chief Scott Pruitt sat in coach on two flights that weren’t charged to the taxpayers, The Associated Press reports. Oh, he didn’t pay himself. He used a companion pass obtained by an aide with frequent flyer miles.
- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has called the Trump White House an “adult day-care center,” remains exasperated with the president. “I do not think tearing down the media is good for our nation. ... Tearing down the Justice Department or the FBI is not a good thing for our nation,” he said.