If Trump knew then what he knows now
President Donald Trump said he had no idea his acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, had such negative feelings toward special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, but even if he had known, it wouldn't matter.
Despite Whitaker's public appearances on cable news and writings disparaging the probe aside, Trump said in a wide-ranging "Fox News Sunday" interview: “I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such.” Even knowing that now, Trump said, “I don’t think it had any effect.”
Media outlets have reported that Whitaker, the former chief of staff to ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, met with Trump in the Oval Office.
When "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace pointed out Whitaker had said there was no collusion, Trump said: “He’s right. What do you do when a person’s right? There is no collusion. He happened to be right. I mean, he said it. So if he said there is collusion, I’m supposed to be taking somebody that says there is?”
Also in the interview, Trump essentially ruled out a sit-down with Mueller's team and added that he wouldn't overrule his acting attorney general if he decided to curtail the special counsel's probe into Russian interference. “Look, it’s going to be up to him ... I would not get involved,” Trump said.
On the question of a sit-down, he said he's already prepared written answers to questions. "We’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is, probably, we’re finished,” he said.
In a typo of his last name or something else, Trump labeled Rep. Adam Schiff as "little Adam Schitt" after the California Democrat suggested Whitaker's appointment bypassing the Senate confirmation process was unconstitutional.
"So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker as not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!" Trump wrote in a tweet.
Mueller, who was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after Sessions recused himself, does not have a Cabinet-level position.
Schiff, meanwhile, took the bait.
"Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?" Schiff wrote, referring to reports that Trump's lawyers are writing Trump's answers to written questions from Mueller.
In the interview with Wallace, Trump insisted he was dictating the answers to the questions.
Scandals to controversies across government
Otherwise lost in the firehose of news, authorities in Alabama last Thursday arrested the Trump administration’s top environmental official for the southeastern U.S. for a purported scheme to help a coal company avoid paying for a costly toxic waste cleanup. He denies the allegations.
Newsday's Dan Janison compiles the list of full-blown scandals to mere controversies at the EPA, Interior Department, Health and Human Services, Department of Education and elsewhere.
One nonprofit government watchdog group accused Trump of leading "the most unethical presidency" in modern times.
Trump also claimed victory in this month's election, citing Republican gains in the senate and ignoring the House results.
In the "Fox News Sunday" interview, he brushed off Republicans’ defeat in the House.
Asked about that, he said, “I didn’t run. I wasn’t running. My name wasn’t on the ballot." Trump had made it a point to his supporters that they should regard him as being on the ballot.
Acosta: Back to work
CNN reporter Jim Acosta had his White House press credentials restored Friday by a federal judge.
The judge, appointed by Trump, ordered the administration to immediately return the credentials, while the White House said it would be developing new rules for orderly news conferences.
CNN alleged that Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated when the White House revoked his “hard pass.”
As The Associated Press wrote, "While the judge didn’t rule on the underlying case, he ordered Acosta’s pass returned for now in part because he said CNN was likely to prevail on its Fifth Amendment claim — that Acosta hadn’t received sufficient notice or explanation before his credentials were revoked or been given sufficient opportunity to respond before they were."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement: “We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”
What else is happening:
- Orange County, California, the birthplace of American conservatism, had its seventh and final Congressional seat called for a Democrat.
- On the other side of the ledger, Florida’s longtime Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson conceded to Republican challenger Rick Scott.
- Trump declined to listen to the tape of Jamal Khashoggi's killing, though he was briefed on it. “We have the tape. I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape,” Trump said. He described it as “a suffering tape” and told Wallace, “I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it ... It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.”
- Trump also attacked retired Adm. William H. McRaven, who criticized him, as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer” and suggested that McRaven, a former Navy SEAL leader and former head of U.S. Special Operations Command, should have found Osama bin Laden sooner.