Art of the fail
The historic scheduled June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un — for which commemorative coins were already minted — is off. Trump pulled the plug after repeated warnings from North Korea that Kim would do the same.
“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim released by the White House Thursday. “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”
Tensions resumed with the latest blast from North Korea calling Vice President Mike Pence a “dummy” and “stupid” for talking about the “Libyan model” for talks — which Trump had already distanced himself from when national security adviser John Bolton made the same suggestion. The Trump letter cited Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility.”
There’s at least one big piece of unfinished business for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: an interview with President Donald Trump. Mueller’s office is saying nothing about anything, including whether it can wrap up by Sept. 1, as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has stated.
Past predictions of end dates from Trump’s legal team proved wrong. But there are fragmentary signs that a conclusion may be drawing closer, at least for parts of the probe.
Mueller’s office asked a judge to start pre-sentencing procedures for George Papadopoulos, the former campaign adviser whose loose lips about Russia contacts helped spark the inquiry, and who pleaded guilty last year to lying to investigators. The prosecutors’ move suggests they won’t need his testimony in trials against others, Politico writes.
Another new development: Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has finally won a top security clearance that was held up for more than a year. Kushner sat for a lengthy interrogation last month by Mueller’s team on collusion and obstruction-of-justice questions.
The signoff by career FBI officials suggests investigators’ scrutiny — at least for national security concerns — has decreased significantly, current and former law enforcement officials told The Washington Post.
Still, Papadopolous and Kushner are just two players in a wide cast of characters that includes a president still iffy about talking to Mueller. Giuliani told the Post that it will be decided in a few weeks. “I guess I’d rather do the interview. It gets it over with it, it makes my client happy,” he said.
Smoke gets in your eyes
In business, Trump suggested he was the king of credit. Now, he’s the king of discredit.
Just as he told CBS’ Lesley Stahl that he attacks the news media so “no one will believe” negative stories, he’s hoping enough voters will buy into his tale of a “Criminal Deep State” behind the Russia investigation. The bet is that if Mueller’s findings go against him, that could discourage any attempt to remove him.
In Trump’s “Spygate” — filling in blanks with conspiracy theory — an FBI informant was planted inside his campaign as a spy. Never mind the intelligence officials’ version: The informant was appropriately used to check out campaign officials who had suspicious contacts with Russians amid growing concern about illegal election interference from Moscow.
Trump told one ally this week that he wanted “to brand” the informant a “spy” because it sounds more nefarious, The Associated Press reported.
Fired FBI Director James Comey tweeted that the use of informants “is tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country.” See Laura Figueroa Hernandez’s story for Newsday.
MS-13 and not MS-13
Trump used his roundtable meeting in Bethpage Wednesday to highlight how the MS-13 gang had terrorized Long Island along with his administration’s efforts to fight them. “These are not people — they are animals,” Trump said.
But Trump also targeted Democrats as being to blame for the failure to pass stricter immigration laws, which he calls the other part of the solution, reports Newsday’s Figueroa and David M. Schwartz.
The big immigration fight in Congress now, however, is among Republicans. A group of GOP moderates frustrated with the lack of action to protect Dreamers from deportation is seeking to force bipartisan immigration votes in the coming days.
Before Trump’s appearance in Bethpage, protesters there accused him of exploiting fears of MS-13 violence as a way to attack immigrants who have nothing to do with them. See the story for Newsday by David Olson and Robert Brodsky.
And what’s a Trump speaking appearance without at least one false statement? The president claimed the gang killed a police officer to “make a statement.” No such slaying took place, as Victor Manuel Ramos notes in Newsday.
Janison: A low bar
Trump has a reputation as a demanding boss. But he’s not always, judging by the way he lets some Cabinet officials run their departments, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Stories keep piling up about EPA chief Scott Pruitt sticking it to the taxpayers for lavish personal perks, but he’s thinning the agency’s stack of regulations.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos isn’t hearing a hurry-up bell for a report responding to mass school shootings.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson took over that agency with no experience in housing. His latest top hire has the same nonqualification.
Hide and tweet
A Manhattan federal judge ruled that Trump violates the First Amendment by blocking people from his Twitter feed based on their political views, Newsday’s John Riley reports. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said Trump’s tweets amount to a public forum because he uses Twitter for official announcements.
If Trump ever blocks you from seeing his tweets, don’t despair. All of them — even the ones deleted because of misspellings or other errors — are replicated within minutes by @RealPressSecBot, an automated program that makes them look like official news releases.
Trump in China trade retreat
Just four days after celebrating what was hailed as a preliminary trade agreement with China, Trump is all but calling for a do-over.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump suggested a final deal with China would need to be substantially altered. “In the end, we will probably have to use a different structure in that this will be too hard to get done and to verify results after completion.” The last phrase appeared to refer to the difficulty of making sure China lives up to the plan.
What else is happening
- The White House and Justice Department have agreed to hold a classified briefing with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders about the Russia investigation, allowing Democrats access they had previously been denied. But Thursday’s Republican-only briefing will go on.
- The NFL is “doing the right thing” with a policy banning kneeling during the national anthem, Trump called in to his allied Fox & Friends to say.
- What are Mueller’s options once he finishes investigating Trump? If he finds no wrongdoing, he still has to send a report to the Justice Department. If he decides laws were violated, he has several options. A New York Times graphic breaks them down.
- Trump doesn’t trust Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein — he’s frequently considered firing him — but at the MS-13 roundtable in Bethpage, the president thanked him for his “very nice” support of Trump immigration policies.
- While Trump was in Bethpage, Hillary Clinton addressed the state Democratic convention at Hofstra University in Hempstead to endorse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. She cast him as a leader who can stand up to Republicans’ Trump-driven agenda, Newsday’s Yancey Roy reports.
- Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, a conservative Arizona Republican, told Harvard Law School graduates that the presidency has been “debased” by a “figure who seemingly has a bottomless appetite for destruction and division, and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works.”