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In switch, Trump now wants Mueller muzzled

Special counsel Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump. Credit: Composite: AFP / Getty Images / Saul Loeb and Brendan Smialowski

Obstruction of Mueller?

Last week, President Donald Trump said it was up to Attorney General William Barr whether special counsel Robert Mueller should be allowed to testify before Congress. No problem, Barr told a Senate hearing last week: "I’ve already said publicly I have no objection to him testifying.”

Now, Trump's got a problem with it. “Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion?” Trump tweeted. “There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”

If the president presses the point, Barr could get an opportunity to demonstrate the political "independence" that he promised during his confirmation hearings but which hasn't been evident in his Trump-pleasing handling of Mueller's report and its aftermath.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday: "Given the fact that Barr does not seem to be a neutral observer here, Mueller's testimony is all the more important."

The House Judiciary Committee has been trying to nail down an appearance by Mueller for May 15. Before Trump's tweet, a Democrat on the panel, Rhode Island's Rep. David Cicilline, said on "Fox News Sunday" that "the White House has so far indicated they would not interfere with Mr. Mueller's attempts to testify."

On a related front, Barr is headed for a potential showdown with the committee. whose chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, gave the Justice Department until 9 a.m. Monday to comply with a request to provide material that was redacted from Mueller's report and underlying evidence. If Barr refuses, Nadler warned he will launch a move to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.

For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Janison: Fork in the road

The sideshows are continuing over House Democrats' efforts to get more from Barr and over Trump's effort to promote his charges of illegal spying on his campaign.

But the main event remains to be determined: Congress will at some point have to decide, whether actively or passively, how to deal with the obstruction question on which Mueller punted. Do they set out on the road to impeachment? Or, if not, does Trump might have had a point when he said: "They shouldn't be looking anymore. It's done." See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

Collusion, NO!, he won't go?

Was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi being an alarmist when she worried to The New York Times that the Democrats need to beat Trump by a "big" margin in 2020 so he won't be able to challenge the legitimacy of his defeat? "We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” she said in an interview published Sunday morning.

Later in the day, Trump retweeted this from Jerry Falwell Jr., a leading supporter among evangelical conservatives:

"I now support reparations-Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup" — a reference to the Russia investigation.

Trump warmed to the I-wuz-robbed idea in his own tweet about an hour later: "... they have stollen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back."

Next he'll fault mane-stream media

Trump wasn't alone in questing the decision of Kentucky Derby race stewards to disqualify Maximum Security, the first horse across the finish line. But the theory he trotted out was a singular head-scratcher.

"Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur," Trump tweeted. 

As Trump-watchers struggled to figure out what Trump was talking about, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani rode to the rescue, tweeting support for Trump's conclusion about the result, if not his bizarre blame-casting. 

"A horse race should be decided on the track unless there is clear evidence of a violation that affects the outcome." Giuliani said. "Maximum Security crossed in front of Country House" — who was declared the winner — "but there is no clear evidence that CH lost stride."

In reply to Giuliani, a Twitter user with the handle "Spinoza" paraphrased that argument back to him: "Even if there was obstruction, it's not a crime."

A great pretender

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo straddled the gap during Sunday talk-show appearances between U.S. policy and Trump's latest effusiveness about Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

Just last week, Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton blamed the Russians for helping keep Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro in power. But Trump said after a lengthy call with Putin Friday that Russia is “not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela.” Pompeo's nonexplanation: "I didn’t see the full context of the quote, I don’t know what context it was said in, I do know that the president has made clear we want everyone out and that includes the Russians."

Pompeo also defended Trump's optimistic "Deal with happen!" tweet about Kim after North Korea tested short-range missiles Friday. “The president understands the challenges," Pompeo said. Pressed if he was still the administration's lead negotiator in talks with North Korean officials, Pompeo replied, "So far as I know."

Asked whether he knew anything about the accuracy of reports that several members of Kim's team at the failed Hanoi summit were later executed, Pompeo said, "I don't have anything to add to that for you this morning." However, he did add: "It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations that my counterpart will be someone else." For more, see Figueroa's story for Newsday.

A new ICE-man cometh

A month after pulling the plug on an ICE nominee because he wanted to go "tougher," Trump announced via Twitter he's chosen Mark Morgan — who ran the Border Patrol during the Obama administration — to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Morgan was forced out from the post in 2017 when Trump took office, but he has since emerged as a vocal supporter of the president's immigration policies and his calls for a border wall. He has also voiced support for sending migrants caught crossing the border illegally to so-called sanctuary cities.

What else is happening:

  • Three Democratic senators capitalized on their grilling of Barr during last week's widely watched hearing to send fundraising appeals for their 2020 presidential campaigns, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo.
  • Joe Biden told donors in South Carolina that he didn't want to get in the insulting-nickname game with Trump, and then he did. "We could just start with ‘clown,’ ” Biden said.
  • With a Chinese delegation due in Washington on Wednesday for trade talks, Trump threatened to hike tariffs two days later on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. "The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!" Trump tweeted.
  • Some Democrats in the New York State Legislature are pushing a property assessment that could boost taxes at Trump's golf courses, but moderate Democrats oppose it, saying it would have a wider effect that could force many courses to shut down, Newsday's Michael Gormley reports.
  • When members of the Boston Red Sox are honored at the White House on Thursday for winning the 2018 World Series, manager Alex Cora won't be there. Cora told El Nuevo Dia that his native Puerto Rico has been treated poorly since Hurricane Maria and "at this moment, I do not feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”
  • Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is due to report to the federal prison in Otisville, New York, Monday to begin serving a 3-year sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes.

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