He might button up
“There is no collusion. ... When you talk about interviews, Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn’t sworn in, she wasn’t given the oath, they didn’t take notes, they didn’t record and it was done on the Fourth of July weekend.”
And: “For 11 months, they’ve had this phony cloud over this administration. ... It’s a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election that frankly the Democrats should have won because they have such a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College.”
Then finally, a nonanswer: “We’ll see what happens — when they have no collusion and nobody’s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.” (Video here.)
It wasn’t entirely clear whether “seems unlikely” referred to Mueller wanting to interview him or Trump’s readiness to cooperate, as when he said last year he was “100 percent” willing to testify under oath. What was clear: Trump said seven times there was “no collusion.”
Trump’s Russia probe irritation also was on display in his morning tweetathon.
“The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues,” said one. “Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!”
GOP-led committees run the congressional probes. Mueller is a Republican.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), asked about the “take control” tweet, said, “I don’t think I better comment until I have a discussion with the president ... and I don’t intend to have a discussion with the president on that point.”
Trump also was so angry with Grassley’s Democratic counterpart for making public testimony about the Russia dossier a day earlier that he gave her a nickname: “Sneaky Dianne Feinstein.”
Trump’s recurring bad dream
Another bummer for Trump was the decision late Tuesday by a federal judge in San Francisco that he can’t end DACA — the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy — until legal challenges are resolved.
“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.” Trump tweeted.
Trump says he is willing to save DACA and spare some 800,000 young dreamers from the threat of deportation as part of a larger deal on immigration and border security. He reiterated Wednesday that the package must include a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Janison: Not a drill
Less than a week after the Trump administration announced it was opening a vast area off U.S. shores to oil and gas drilling, it added an exception: Florida.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he made the change after an appeal from Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Officials of other coastal states with nice beaches and marine ecosystems to protect have also objected — so far to no avail.
So what makes Florida special? Newsday’s Dan Janison offers some possibilities: Trump has been urging Scott to run for the Senate to capture a now-Democratic seat and the president is concerned about his own standing in a state closely fought in 2016. Also, remember where Mar-a-Lago is.
Lifeline seen for Iran deal
Trump is expected to extend general relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, as recommended by his national security team, though the president hasn’t made a final decision, administration officials and other sources told The Associated Press.
If he keeps the deal in place, Trump is also expected to place new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, testing Tehran’s willingness to abide by the agreement.
Hall of defame
Still smarting, evidently, over being portrayed as addled in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury ...” book, Trump said he was going to take “a strong look” at making it easier to sue for libel.
“You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” said — unironically — the poster boy-in-chief for fact-checkers.
Trump raised a complaint about libel laws during the 2016 campaign, and then backed off, saying he was told, “You may get sued a lot more.”
In reality, there’s little he could do about that — libel laws are largely determined by the states and the U.S. Supreme Court has set a high bar to protect the First Amendment.
The Internal Revenue Service is leaning on employers to cut income tax withholding starting in February even though its calculations on how the new Trump-GOP tax law should affect paychecks aren’t ready.
As a result, millions of workers could unwittingly end up underpaying their taxes, only to be hit with a surprise when they file their 2018 tax returns next year, The Washington Post reports.
Top o' the tantrums
The rooster's crow on Thursday brought a new crop of garbled, fact-challenged and defensive cries for support from the perpetually plaintive president: Here's the most widely quoted by media:
"Disproven and paid for by Democrats" Dossier used to spy on Trump Campaign. Did FBI use Intel tool to influence the Election?” @foxandfriends Did Dems or Clinton also pay Russians? Where are hidden and smashed DNC servers? Where are Crooked Hillary Emails? What a mess!"
Trump later returned to one of his favorite unattributed conspiracy theories.
"House votes on controversial FISA ACT today. This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?"
What else is happening
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will use her home-state “blue-slip prerogative” to try to block the expected nominee for U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, The New York Times said. Reports that Trump personally interviewed him raise conflict-of-interest concerns, a Gillibrand spokesman said.
- Vice President Mike Pence will lead the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month. Part of the trip will include a review of missile defense systems, a senior official told Bloomberg News.
- Trump will attend a listening session Thursday on prison reform organized by senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Axios reports. His father — real estate mogul Charles Kushner — was incarcerated on federal charges including tax evasion.
- When Trump disbanded his voter fraud panel last week, the White House said its “preliminary findings” would be turned over to the Homeland Security Department, which he tasked with examining the issue. Now, the White House says there were no such findings, and data the panel collected will be destroyed.
- Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding mental health care for veterans as they leave the military, in an effort to reduce suicides. The plan is to provide all new veterans with such care for at least a year.
- Trump business lawyers have gone to court to stop residents of the Trump Place condo building on Manhattan’s West Side from removing his name, The New York Times reported. Three nearby rental buildings were de-Trumped before he took office.