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Even for Trump, Mueller testimony may be must-see TV

Robert Mueller in 2013.

Robert Mueller in 2013. Photo Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Under the 'witch hunt' spell

"Highly conflicted Robert Mueller should not be given another bite at the apple," Donald Trump tweeted Monday. But even the president is sounding conflicted about whether to tune in when the Russia investigation special counsel testifies on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

"No, I'm not going to be watching, probably — maybe I'll see a little bit of it," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Monday.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway complained that Democrats are seeking to have Mueller "read from his own report.”

Well, yeah. The biggest headlines when the findings came out in April were that Trump wouldn't face charges. That's now old news. Most people didn't read the 400-plus pages. But Mueller's testimony to the House committees, even if it won't go beyond the report, will bring to life troubling details of what he found.

Whether or not you call it collusion, Newsday's Dan Janison writes, the Trump campaign knew the Russians signaled their willingness to help.

On the question of whether Trump sought to obstruct the investigation, Mueller didn't make a call, but said in a public statement two months ago: "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."

Mueller will be asked why he lacked that confidence. The answers could make for riveting TV. Even Trump may find it hard to turn away.

Off to the racists

It's becoming a challenge for Trump to come up with new invectives to hurl at "the Squad," the four congresswomen from minority backgrounds who he's said "hate our country" and should "go back" to where they came from.

With his remarks over the past nine days widely condemned as racist, he tweeted this on Monday: "The 'Squad' is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart."

The "racist" epithet is a familiar Trump fallback to the schoolyard game of "I know you are, but what am I?" It shows up when he's got nothing else, most famously during a 2016 debate with Hillary Clinton when she suggested he'd be a "puppet" for Vladimir Putin. His comeback then: "No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet.”

In another tweet Monday, Trump accused The Washington Post of "Fake News" for reporting in a story Sunday that he was given talking points with opposition research on the congresswomen the day after his initial Twitter attack on them. "There were no talking points," Trump insisted. But a Post photographer snapped pictures of them in Trump's hands as he spoke about the four last Monday.

Underwallming

The Trump administration has yet to build a single mile of new wall along the Mexican border even as he said "we've built a lot of it," the Washington Examiner reported.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it had built 51 miles of steel bollard fence with funding that was set aside during fiscal 2017 and 2018, but all of it is replacement for barriers that already existed.

The administration maintains that significant portions of new wall will be finished in the time remaining in Trump's term. While Congress hasn't given him all the money he wants, he has some available.

But Trump now maintains that replacements count as "new." He tweeted Monday night: "We have replaced many miles of old Barrier with powerful new Walls!"

Mi casa, me cash in

The president's 800-acre golf club in Miami, the Trump National Doral, is a Trump administration finalist for hosting a G-7 summit next year, Axios reported.

Trump hasn't been bothered about how it looks to profit from official business.

The Doral's revenue has been sagging. Two weeks ago, a strip club's charity golf tournament there was canceled following unfavorable publicity.

Return to sender

The Democratic-controlled New York State Legislature passed a bill last month to make it easier for Congress to see Trump's state income tax returns. But House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said he doesn't want them, NBC News reports.

Neal says he fears getting the state returns would undermine his legal fight for Trump's federal filings by bolstering the Trump administration's argument that Congress only wants them for political reasons. 

Scratch shutdown from worry list

There will be no encore, at least for two years, of Trump shutting down the government because Democrats wouldn't give him wall money or for any other reason.

The president and congressional leaders announced a critical debt and budget agreement that will restore the government’s ability to borrow to pay its bills past the 2020 elections and build upon recent large budget gains for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

Trump tweeted: “This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer claimed credit for winning more than $100 billion worth of spending increases for domestic priorities. 

What else is happening:

  • Trump asserted Monday he could win the 17-year war in Afghanistan “in a week,” but "I just don't want to kill 10 million people," reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez. The comment came while he was meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
  • Trump said during that session that India asked him to mediate its long-running, sometimes bloody territorial dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said “no such request” has been made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The Trump administration Tuesday will make official its plan to bypass immigration courts and deport undocumented immigrants who cannot prove they’ve been present continuously in the U.S. for at least two years. Legal challenges are planned.
  • The mystery of why Vice President Mike Pence abruptly canceled a visit to a drug recovery center in New Hampshire three weeks ago may be solved. Had he gone, he might have met a center employee, former New York Giant Jeff Hatch, who was under federal investigation. Hatch pleaded guilty last week to fentanyl trafficking.
  • Trump agreed with protesters massing in the streets of Puerto Rico that Ricardo Roselló is a "terrible governor." He also took a swipe at San Juan's Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a frequent critic since Hurricane Maria, and said of himself that he's “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico.” 
  • Before "Squad" member Rep. Rashida Tlaib was elected to Congress, she was part of a group of protesters who were ejected from a 2016 Trump campaign speech in Detroit.

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