Has anyone checked the hinges?
Even for Donald Trump, it was a strange morning on Twitter.
A day after accepting Queen Elizabeth II's invitation for a state visit, the president promoted a baseless accusation recently resurfaced by a conspiracy theorist, Larry Johnson, on the conservative One America Network that the United Kingdom helped the Obama administration spy on his 2016 campaign. “WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!” Trump wrote.
Wow, indeed. Fox News pulled commentator Andrew Napolitano off the air after he floated the tale back in 2017 and the White House quickly backed away from it. Johnson, who has a history of false claims, later acknowledged being a source for Napolitano. Now, as then, London was not amused. "The allegations are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored," said Britain's main intelligence agency.
Trump also offered sinister speculation about an incident last week during which Mexican soldiers disarmed and briefly detained U.S. soldiers in an unmarked border patrol vehicle.
The Pentagon concluded the Mexicans made "an honest mistake," thinking they were on their own territory in an area south of a Texas border fence, said a U.S. military spokeswoman. "The Mexican military has been and continues to be a great partner with the United States military,” the spokeswoman said.
Trump didn't think so. "Mexico’s Soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers, probably as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers on the Border. Better not happen again! We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border," he tweeted.
Then there was the momentous question of whether Trump called a Washington Post reporter or was returning the reporter's call for an interview on Tuesday. "I didn’t call Bob Costa of the Washington Post, he called me (Returned his call)! Just more Fake News," the president tweeted. Which is just what Costa tweeted himself shortly before the story based on the interview appeared. There was nothing in it to indicate otherwise.
Trump: Stop investigating me
Trump vowed Wednesday to fight “all the subpoenas” issued by House Democrats, escalating the standoff with lawmakers over access to his records and their efforts to compel testimony from current and former members of his administration.
“I thought after two years we’d be finished with it,” Trump said on Wednesday, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. “No. Now the House goes and starts subpoenas. They want to know every deal I’ve ever done.” He charged Democrats are trying to "luck out" in 2020 by "constantly going after me on nonsense." (Click here for video of his remarks.)
With House Democrats fighting to get a look at his tax returns, Trump said, "Mueller, I assume … checked my taxes, checked my financials." Mueller's report made no mention of reviewing the tax returns or other personal financial documents.
Taking it to the Supremes
Trump said that if the House moves to impeach him, he'll fight it in the Supreme Court. Legal experts were mystified on what Trump thinks the court could do for him.
The high court ruled unanimously in 1993 that authority for impeachment trials resides in Congress and "nowhere else.”
“Supreme Court doctrine on this is well established and crystal clear,” Richard Pildes, an NYU constitutional law professor, told Time magazine. "The Supreme Court has said that impeachment involves what are fundamentally and pervasively political judgments. For that reason they’re not judgments that courts have an appropriate role to assess.”
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor who has called for Trump's impeachment and co-authored a book on the process last year, tweeted: "Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate.”
Hillary's thoughts on impeachment
In a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday, Hillary Clinton wrote Mueller's "definitive conclusion" is that "our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated." But she said there should be no rush either for Trump's impeachment or to rule it out for what she called "a serious crime against the American people."
Clinton said Mueller's report provides a "road map" for further investigation by Congress and "it's up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not."
She said "Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security." Clinton also called for a bipartisan commission "to help protect our elections … because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger."
The New York Times writes that Mueller detailed three instances in which Trump tried to pressure then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to order Clinton prosecuted for her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state. The FBI closed the case without charges in 2016.
Russia? Hush ya mouth
Recently departed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was deeply concerned about the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 elections. But Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, warned her not to bring it up in front of the president, The New York Times reported.
It seems the subject triggered Trump, who sees any discussion about Russian scheming as casting doubt about the legitimacy of his election. As the president sought to squelch doubts about his political prowess, his disengagement from the issue has undercut efforts to raise awareness from the public and from companies that could help counter the Russians, a senior official told the Times.
Mulvaney was described as saying in a meeting that efforts to protect the 2020 election “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level." Nielsen gave up trying to organize senior Cabinet meetings about it.
Mulvaney said Wednesday: "I don't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting."
Trump rewards young LI fan
Lake Ronkonkoma sixth-grader Bella Moscato wanted to write why Trump is her hero for a school assignment. What happened next is in dispute. Bella says her teacher told her to write about someone else because the president “spreads negativity and says bad stuff about women.” After her parents complained about censorship, Sachem school district Superintendent Kenneth Graham called the girl's account "inaccurate."
But Graham said in a later statement that the district "does not endorse or condone" stifling such views and "we certainly regret that any student or parent may have been made to feel otherwise." Bella ended up writing about Trump, and the president sent her a gift package with school supplies and a thank-you letter. “I encourage you to always be yourself and keep making your voice heard," it said.
"I was so happy. I just can't believe it. It's so exciting for me,” said Bella. For more, see Newsday's story by Robert Brodsky.
What else is happening:
- Deutsche Bank has begun the process of providing financial records to New York State's attorney general, who subpoenaed documents related to loans made to Trump and his business, CNN reported. It's been one of the few big banks willing to lend to the Trump Organization in recent years.
- Bernie Sanders' call for giving prison inmates the vote — even terrorists and murderers — is putting other Democratic 2020 contenders on the spot. Kamala Harris said she'll think about it, but "there has to be serious consequence for the most extreme types of crimes." Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro will think about it, too, for nonviolent offenders. Pete Buttigieg said no, not until they get out.
- Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, who won't be voting for the next three years or so, told comedian Tom Arnold that he didn't really commit tax evasion and other financial crimes to which he pleaded guilty. Arnold taped the call without Cohen's knowledge and shared it with The Wall Street Journal.
- The White House plans to crack down on the hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors who overstay their U.S. visas, the Los Angeles Times reports. With about 52 million visitors legally entering the United States each year, federal authorities have long faced challenges tracking overstays.
- Aside from Sen. Mitt Romney, Republicans have muted any critical takes on Trump after the Mueller report and focused on the no-collusion finding, Politico reports. "It's clear there were no merit badges earned at the White House for behavior,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). "Is it ideal? Donald Trump is not a saint. Nobody ever said he is," commented Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
- Former Chris Christie aide Bridget Kelly, sentenced to 13 months in federal prison Wednesday for her role in the Bridgegate scandal that helped sink the former New Jersey governor's presidential bid, is holding out hope for a Trump pardon. She was interviewed by The Washington Post. Trump has said he found it "shameful" that Christie didn't stand by her.