Seeing President Donald Trump stick Attorney General Jeff Sessions on a public hot seat no longer rates as a novelty. But it is extraordinary for any president to call for action by his top law-enforcement official and have nothing come of it.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that Sessions "should stop" special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian election interference "right now, before it continues to stain our country any further."
Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called this "an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight." Not so, insisted Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, who said the president "was expressing his opinion on his favorite medium, Twitter." That is, it wasn't a demand, as Guiliani massaged it. Anyway, as noted by Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez, Sessions had already stepped down from overseeing the probe.
Chinese officials warned the U.S. against "blackmailing and pressuring" it over trade, with Trump officials indicating they'd consider doubling planned tariffs on another $200 billion in imports from the People's Republic.
The situation remains fluid, with White House advisers evidently anxious to prod China back to the negotiating table. The Chinese economy “faces some new problems and new challenges,” a Politburo statement said. “There are obvious changes in the external environment.”
Trump at a rally Tuesday complained it is "not nice" that Beijing is responding by targeting farmers who sell exports to that nation.
In September, Trump lavished praise on autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a "friend of mine" who is "getting high marks." But shortly before Trump took office, Erdogan's regime jailed and began prosecuting American pastor Andrew Brunson on espionage charges — despite Trump legal ally Jay Sekulow agitating for the minister's release.
On Wednesday — a year and a half into Trump's term — White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Treasury Department will sanction two officials of the Erdogan regime in connection with the reported persecution of Brunson, who's being tried in Turkey. Nobody seems to know if Erdogan's "high marks" from Trump will continue.
Sanctuary slap 'unconstitutional'
The administration's order threatening funds for "sanctuary cities" like New York that curb cooperation with immigration officials is unconstitutional, a U.S. appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1: "Absent congressional authorization, the administration may not redistribute or withhold properly appropriated funds in order to effectuate its own policy goals."
There's no sign if the Republican-led Congress will act to back up Trump's policy directive.
What else is happening:
- Mueller indicated he's willing to reduce the number of obstruction-related questions he'd ask the president in an interview, The Washington Post reported.
- The Senate approved and sent Trump a $717 billion compromise defense-policy bill aimed largely at "building up" the military, Politico reported.
- Paul Manafort, the ex-Trump campaign chief, spent more than $1 million on suits and luxury clothes, much of it paid for via undeclared foreign accounts, prosecutors told jurors.
- New rules from the administration are aimed at getting Americans to buy cheap, bare-bones health plans originally offered for short-term use.
- Trump made 4,229 false or suspect claims over 558 days, by the running count of The Washington Post.
- QAnon had representatives at Trump's latest rally. It is described here as a deep-state-conspiracy cult.