Trump: FBI in “Tatters”
After President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI about his prior contacts with Russian officials, Trump took to Twitter Sunday to deny he had asked former FBI Director James Comey to halt a probe into his one-time aide.
“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn,” Trump wrote in a pre-dawn tweet. “Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”
The Twitter post came a day after Trump, in a tweet, appeared to acknowledge he knew at the time he fired Flynn in February that the general had lied to the FBI, report Newsday’s Emily Ngo and David M. Schwartz.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Trump’s personal attorney John Dowd told Politico on Sunday that he drafted that tweet, and did not believe it would pose any legal problems for Trump as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his Russia probe.
The commander-in-chief on Sunday took aim at the nation’s top law enforcement agency in a series of tweets, saying “its reputation is in Tatters — worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”
FBI leader strikes back
The head of the FBI Agents Association, Thomas O’Connor, responded to Trump’s tweets, saying: “FBI Special Agents put their lives on the line to protect the American public from national security and criminal threats.”
“FBI Agents are dedicated to their mission; suggesting otherwise is simply false,” O’Connor wrote in a statement posted online.
Janison: Flynn’s red flags
Now that Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, one nagging question is why Trump’s trusted “good guy” didn’t just tell the unvarnished truth, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Trump, in a Saturday Twitter post, cast Flynn’s purported actions as “a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Flynn’s indictment on Friday was the latest in a series of scandals that have dogged the high-ranking military official late in his career.
Read Janison’s full column here.
The tax plan cometh
Senate Republicans making the Sunday morning talk show rounds defended the passage of their $1.5 trillion tax package amid protests from Senate Democrats and nonpartisan budget groups that have said the measure will add billions of dollars to the nation’s growing national debt.
On Saturday, Senate Republicans passed their version of a tax overhaul just before 2 a.m., clearing a major hurdle for Trump, who is eager to claim a legislative victory amid a year of losses on efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He has been pressing Congress to pass a tax code overhaul by Christmas.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, dismissed budget reports that have said the GOP tax bill will add billions of dollars to the country’s debt, arguing that the GOP’s economic growth predictions to make up for the nearly $1.5 trillion in tax cuts were “pretty darn achievable.”
“I’m confident this is not only revenue neutral to the government, but actually it’s very likely to be a revenue producer,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Republicans rally behind bill
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate who had been on the fence, cited economists who said the legislation would help the economy, as did McConnell, reported Newsday’s Emily Ngo and David Schwartz.
“Economic growth produces more revenue and that will help to offset this tax cut and actually lower the debt,” she told NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican, admitted he didn’t read “every single letter on every single page” of the legislation, but defended the process.
“I did not read 470 pages. But have I read every aspect of that bill before it was fused together? The answer is yes,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Democrats decry the process
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, ripped Republicans for pushing the bill through in the early morning hours with little debate.
The process “just plain stunk,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia (D-Va.) on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Warner said that even accounting for growth, the bill would add $2 trillion to the nation’s $20 trillion debt.
Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, said “process matters” and tax breaks for special interests would be exposed in the coming days.
“We’re going to find some really stinky stuff in here that we didn’t know,” King said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Anything good that happens in America in the next year, including good weather at the Super Bowl, is going to be attributed to this bill.”
Senate Republicans must still reconcile their version of the tax bill with the version passed by House Republicans on Nov. 16
New York lawmakers are hoping the reconciliation process will lead to reinclusion of popular deductions currently on the chopping block, such as state and local property tax deductibility. Democrats and Republicans alike in high-tax states such as New York have argued that getting rid of the so-called SALT deductions will hurt middle class property owners the most.
“We’re still going to be fighting and still making noise to bring as much attention as possible,” Rep. Peter King told Newsday’s Tom Brune. But he also acknowledged, “It’s going to be very difficult.”
What else is happening
- Without naming names, former President Barack Obama spoke in Paris of “the importance of more focus on putting women in power, because men seem to be having some problems these days.”
- Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and top campaign aide David Bossie are set to release a book on their former boss. The book, “Let Trump Be Trump” details the candidate’s penchant for Big Macs and dressing down staffers, according to The Washington Post.
- The scramble is on for a spending bill that will prevent a shutdown of government operations Friday.
- Trump, speaking at a GOP fundraising event at Manhattan’s swanky Cipriani restaurant, told those on hand that Republicans were “unbeatable” in upcoming elections, reports Politico.
- Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, speaking at a political forum, said he was “optimistic” he could broker a peace accord between Israel and Palestine, reports The New York Times. Kushner’s comments come as the president is expected to announce that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, something that no U.S. president has done since the state of Israel was created in 1948.
- Palestinian officials told White House officials last week they will not engage in further peace talks with the Trump administration if such a move is made.
- Netanyahu has threatened airstrikes against Syria if Iran is allowed to set up bases there, according to The Wall Street Journal (pay site).
- McConnell said the people of Alabama will decide whether to add Roy Moore to the GOP majority. Moore, up in the polls, is at war with McConnell.