Time must have whizzed by
Nothing has come to light that backs up the famously salacious story in the Christopher Steele dossier of a Moscow hotel room romp featuring Donald Trump, two prostitutes and a hidden camera recording blackmail-ready video.
Here’s what’s solid: the alibi that Trump is said to have twice given in 2017 to then-FBI Director James Comey doesn’t stand up.
Trump said he never spent the night in Moscow when he flew there for 2013 Miss Universe pageant. He said he arrived in the morning, used the Ritz-Carlton room to shower and change clothes and flew home late that night.
But flight records obtained by Bloomberg News show he landed on a Friday morning and didn’t leave until early Sunday. The records further corroborate a timeline reconstructed from social media posts (including Trump tweets), photos and congressional testimony from Trump’s bodyguard.
That falsehood and another dubious story he told Comey — Vladimir Putin’s boast to him that Russia has “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world” — doesn’t mean the Steele story about prostitutes urinating on each other in Trump’s presence is true.
But if he deliberately tried to mislead the FBI chief, it could bolster an obstruction case by special counsel Robert Mueller, Politico writes.
George Washington slept there
Trump hosted a private dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Monday night at Mount Vernon in Virginia, the plantation home of George Washington.
It was the first day of a three-day summit during which the two leaders are expected to discuss trade and national security issues, including Trump’s stated desire to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, a move Macron opposes. See Laura Figueroa Hernandez’s story for Newsday.
Janison: Vapor trail
Sometimes the question is whether to take Trump’s tweets seriously but not literally, or literally but not seriously. There’s a third question: Whether to take some of them as anything but an attempt to fill dead air.
This past weekend, Trump tweeted recycled complaints about the Russia investigation. In North Korea negotiations, “maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t.” He’s “considering” a posthumous pardon for the boxer Jack Johnson. File that under talk but no action yet. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Climate changing for Pruitt
White House officials are cautioning Republican lawmakers and other conservative allies to tone down their defense of EPA chief Scott Pruitt, Bloomberg News reports.
Pruitt’s appetites for taxpayer-paid perks, among other ethical judgments, are under scrutiny. “We’re reviewing some of those allegations,” White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.
Pruitt is likely to face tough questioning at two House hearings Thursday.
Pompeo on his way
Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a would-be GOP foe, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, switched to a yes after personal lobbying by the president.
The nomination now goes to the full Senate, where confirmation appears all but certain after three red-state Democrats said they would support Pompeo.
The Doctor Isn’t In
The Senate has put on hold Trump’s nomination of his White House physician, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
It’s not just his skepticism about his experience to run the sprawling bureaucracy. Vetting has turned up allegations concerning past conduct that needs further investigation, CNN reports.
There’s still Trump-brand water?
Republican groups and Trump’s 2020 campaign are seeing to it that the president’s business interests keep cashing in during his presidency, according to recently disclosed records. The Trump campaign even paid $1,768 in 2017 to Trump’s bottled water company, Trump Ice LLC, Politico reports.
More significantly, Trump’s re-election campaign has spent $670,000 at Trump properties since he was elected, Politico reports. The Republican National Committee has also paid $1.1 million to Trump properties since the election.
What else is happening:
- Sanders declined to discuss whether Trump is considering a pardon for his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who is under criminal investigation but not charged so far. “It’s hard to close a door on something that hasn’t taken place,” she said.
- Trump cites mass killings when it fits his political narrative, but is maintaining Twitter silence on the Waffle House shootings in Tennessee, leading to some nasty speculation as to why.
- Projections based on 2017 tax returns from New York’s Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, indicate each expects to get a federal income tax cut worth thousands of dollars next year under the new Republican tax law, which they both fought, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports.
- John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser, chaired a nonprofit — the Gatestone Institute — that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news, NBC News reported.
- The Treasury Department softened sanctions on a Russian aluminum producer, Rusal, and said it would consider lifting them completely if the company cuts ties to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to Putin.
- The Trump administration has released the remainder of this year’s funding — $609 million — for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which it previously tried to kill.