No dunce cap for Donald Jr.
Some Trump partisans went with ignorance as an excuse for Donald Trump Jr.’s decision to meet with a Russian lawyer who was advertised as offering Kremlin-mined mud to fling at Hillary Clinton.
“Could he be totally clueless? I think that’s plausible,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told Fox News. Or as a New York Post editorial put it: “Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot.”
The president kicked the legs out from that line of defense in an interview with Reuters.
“I think many people would have held that meeting,” the president said. (But he didn’t learn about it until “a couple of days ago.”)
Trump’s remarks on the meeting were his first direct comments since the story of the collusionish caper unspooled and Donald Jr.’s first explanations got crushed under email evidence. On Wednesday, the president went back on offense.
The Donalds, he tweeted, are victims of “the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
No buy-in from FBI pick
Special counsel Robert Mueller is not “on a witch hunt,” Trump’s nominee for FBI director, Christopher Wray, said at his Senate confirmation hearing.
“I’m very committed to supporting Director Mueller in the special counsel investigation in whatever way is appropriate for me to do that,” Wray said.
To senators seeking reassurances after Trump fired James Comey over his handling of the Russia investigation, Wray pledged to stand up against any inappropriate pressure from the White House.
Wray said he “sure as heck” would not offer a pledge of loyalty to the president, which Comey testified that Trump demanded from him.
The take-away: IOU? Who me?
Newsday’s Dan Janison offers one possible defense that could help Trump dispel the notion that Moscow could expect payback for its efforts on his behalf: Trump’s rich history of stiffing and stalling those he owes.
Since Trump became president, the Russians haven’t gotten much return on their supposed investment. To their growing irritation, Trump hasn’t lifted sanctions. His big first-time summit with Vladimir Putin looks like a much bigger “nothing burger” than the email trail of Trump Jr.
Trump Wednesday went so far as to claim Putin really wanted Clinton to win — contrary to what U.S. intelligence officials have found about the Russian leader’s druthers. “I wanted a strong military — he doesn’t want to see that,” the president told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson.
He was new at this
The timing of Donald Jr.'s now-famous meeting with connected Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya becomes interesting in light of what the president-to-be was doing in days surrounding it.
Hours after the son confirmed the meeting in an email, Trump said: "I am going to give a major speech. Probably Monday of next week. And we're going to be discussing all the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going to find it very informative and very very interesting."
But the meeting proved a non-starter. And this "major speech" never happened.
At home in Moscow
Trump Jr. has spent far more time in Russia than his father did and developed personal ties that began as early as 2006 on a trip to meet potential business partners and continued beyond the November election, Politico reports.
He once told an audience, “I really prefer Moscow over all cities in the world.”
But for business, he also found it “a scary place,” where investment could be risky “because it is a question of who knows who, whose brother is paying off who, etc.”
Netflix and chilled vodka
An exasperated Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is tired of the “drip, drip” of Russia revelations and said Trump administration officials should tell special counsel Robert Mueller everything they know as quickly as possible before it shows up in news reports.
“Someone needs to get everyone in a room and say, from the time you saw ‘Dr. Zhivago’ until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single contact with Russia,” Gowdy told Politico.
The State Department spent more than $15,000 to book 19 rooms at the new Trump hotel in Vancouver, Canada, when members of the president’s family went there for its grand opening in February, The Washington Post reported.
A department official did not answer questions about who stayed at the Trump hotel and why they were there. Expedia lists 53 hotels in Vancouver with a rating of four stars or higher.
Trump’s tax-cut plan could actually mean a tax increase for nearly one-fourth of middle-class American households, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported by The Washington Post.
For households with incomes between $49,000 and $86,000, those facing a hike would pay an average $1,000 more.
Among the richest 0.1% — the wealthiest 1 in 1,000 households, those with more than $3.4 million in annual income — only 2% would see a higher tax bill.
What else is happening
- Trump as True Detective, discussing Putin’s denials to him of election interference: “I said, did you do it? And he said no, I did not. Absolutely not. I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not,” Trump told Reuters.
- Trump tweeted back against depictions of him as obsessed with watching cable news while the White House is in chaos: “The W.H. is functioning perfectly, focused on HealthCare, Tax Cuts/Reform & many other things. I have very little time for watching T.V.”
- The Senate Judiciary Committee said it wants to question onetime Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, who sat in along with Jared Kushner on Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer.
- Guests at 14 Trump properties, including hotels in Washington, New York and Vancouver, had their credit card information hacked for the third time in three years, The Washington Post reported. It’s an industrywide problem.
- Kushner and Ivanka Trump jetted off to Sun Valley, Idaho, to hang with corporate chiefs at Allen & Co.’s annual media and technology summit.
- After Trump intervened, Homeland Security officials reversed course and will allow into the U.S. six teen girls from Afghanistan who have an entry in an international robotics competition next week, Politico reported.