Takes his marbles off the board
As with Donald Trump's other short-lived attempts to engage Democrats, his outreach to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on infrastructure wasn't built to last.
Another president facing investigations from Capitol Hill might put on a show of doing what it takes to carry on with the nation's business regardless. Not this one. Not when "the big 'I' word," as Trump referred to impeachment, is in the air.
"You probably can't go down two tracks," an aggrieved Trump said at a hurriedly called news conference Wednesday after haranguing Pelosi and Schumer for three minutes and then storming off. "You can go down the investigation track … or the track of 'Let’s get things done for the American people.’ ”
Trump said he's not willing to talk now with Democrats about rebuilding the nation's infrastructure or bringing down prescription drug prices — two of his 2016 campaign promises. The president said he told Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi: "You can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.”
Trump greeted the day around 6 a.m. with an angry "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" tweet. An hour later came complaint that without the "ILLEGAL Witch Hunt," he'd be riding at 65 percent approval in the polls. Then, according to several reports, his mood got even darker when he heard what Pelosi had said on Capitol Hill.
Pelosi, who has been trying to slow down any rush to impeachment proceedings, had a morning meeting with Democrats about the status of the House investigations in the face of Trump's stonewalling. She told reporters afterward: "We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up — in a cover-up.”
“I don’t do cover-ups," said Trump, though special counsel Robert Mueller's report recounted instances of potential obstruction of justice in which Trump walked up to the line, if not indisputably over it. Trump's battles with the Mueller investigation are one of the many wide-ranging subjects of House inquiries. For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune and Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
He came to prey
In the Democratic leaders' telling, they walked into an ambush.
"It was planned," Schumer said. "When we got in the room, the curtains were closed. There was a place for him at the front so he could stand and tell us why he wouldn’t do infrastructure. And then, of course, he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.”
Pelosi's post-mortem: “I pray for the president of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America.” She called the episode “very, very, very strange” and described Trump's demeanor as "almost to a 'Oh, poor baby' point of view."
Schumer: "To watch what happened at the White House would make your jaw drop."
Click here for video of Trump's Rose Garden news conference.
Legal losing streak at two
A federal judge in New York refused Wednesday to block congressional subpoenas seeking financial records from two banks that did business with Trump.
Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that Trump and his company were unlikely to succeed in a lawsuit claiming the subpoenas seeking records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One were unlawful and unconstitutional. Ramos concluded that the subpoenas have “a legitimate legislative purpose.”
The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees say they want the documents to investigate possible “foreign influence in the U.S. political process.”
It was Trump's second defeat this week in his efforts to keep his records from congressional investigators. A federal judge in Washington found the president cannot block a House subpoena for information from an accounting firm that worked for him and the Trump Organization.
Janison: Stonewall, impeach pitfalls
There are risks for both sides trying to game their way through Trump's fight with House Democratic investigators, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Attorney General William Barr's limited cave to a demand for Mueller probe documents suggests at least some in Trump's camp realize how self-destructive it could be to try to nullify outright the investigative authority of either house of Congress. If they don't understand that already, court decisions like the two against Trump this week may open their eyes.
And while some Democrats are already all in for impeachment, others — including those who won districts that went for Trump in 2016 — expressed reluctance to get ahead of the public, with recent polls showing clear majorities against it.
Even Sen. Bernie Sanders worried it will be to Trump's advantage if "all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and Trump, Trump, Trump, and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller" and not "all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans."
A revealing state
The New York State Assembly approved a bill opening the door for Congress to get Trump’s state tax returns, potentially giving Democrats another way around the White House’s refusal to make available his federal returns, Newsday's Michael Gormley reports.
The State Senate had already approved the bill, meaning it's now up to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Earlier this year, an aide said Cuomo could support the legislation “as long as it applies to everybody” and not just to Trump.
Rex: Trump blew Putin meeting
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Trump found himself out-prepared by Russian President Vladimir Putin at their first head-to-head meetings in Germany, putting the American president at a disadvantage.
"We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a committee aide told The Washington Post. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.
Sadly Trump, who kept him in the post for more than a year, responded that "dumb as a rock" Tillerson was "totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State." So much for the "stable genius" picking the "best people." Tillerson famously called Trump in front of other aides "a [expletive] moron."
'Favor' bank alleged
The head of a small Chicago bank has been charged in federal court in New York with approving loans to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in exchange for an administration position such as Army, Treasury or Housing secretary.
Questions first emerged last summer about the role of the bank executive, Steven Calk, whose approval in the end did not get him a desired post although Manafort submitted his name.
Charge Avenatti was a Stormy drain
Michael Avenatti, the attorney who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal battles with Trump, was charged by federal prosecutors Wednesday with ripping off almost $300,000 of book deal proceeds that were supposed to go to her.
Avenatti allegedly used a "fraudulent document purporting to bear his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to Avenatti's client to an account controlled by Avenatti," according to a statement by federal prosecutors. He denied the charges.
Both Daniels and Avenatti became famous after it was revealed that she was paid $130,000 in hush money to keep secret her story of a sexual tryst with Trump in 2006.
What else is happening:
- The Pentagon on Thursday will present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, The Associated Press reported.
- Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC he's not discouraged by a poll showing he had the highest unfavorability in the vast 2020 Democratic field. "It's not where you start, it's where you end," he said. "This is the very beginning of an election."
- The taxpayer costs for Trump's travels to his golf resorts in Florida and elsewhere have topped $100 million, according to an analysis by HuffPost.
- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told a House committee Wednesday that the debut of a $20 bill with a portrait of abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman will be delayed from 2020 to at least 2028, if it happens at all. He didn't explain why. The bill currently features Andrew Jackson, a favorite of Trump, who called the Tubman plan "pure political correctness."
- A Quinnipiac poll found Trump's trade war generating disapproval in five crucial industrial states he won in 2016: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa.
- News that Donald Trump Jr. is writing a book sparked a round of Twitter snark under the hashtag #DonJrBookTitles. Even sister Ivanka joined in the teasing. The president's eldest son shared one title: "The Brat In The Hat."