A Complete Breakdown Of Donald Trump’s 66th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

Erosion

An audience member holds a fake news sign during a President Donald Trump campaign rally in Washington Township, Michigan, Saturday, April 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

An audience member holds a fake news sign during a President Donald Trump campaign rally in Washington Township, Michigan, Saturday, April 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

As White House Correspondents parties in Washington D.C. to ostensibly celebrate the first amendment, President Trump rallied in Washington Township, Michigan and attacked them…attacks that are working.

A Quinnipiac poll released this week found that 51% of Republicans believe the media is “the enemy of the people” and only 37% believe the media is “an important part of democracy.”

I wonder how we got here 🤔…

The President of the United States is successfully eroding his supporters’ trust in the media; the backbone of democracy. Question is, can that backbone hold democracy together when its calcium — that is the American people’s trust — is rapidly depleting?

I start here because some of the very same people that President Trump has galvanized his supporters against (in some cases, calling them out by name) were bending over backward to be outraged over jokes by a comedian at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Were all of the jokes in good taste? That’s up for interpretation and debate. But that is far beyond the point. The point is there was collective outrage and demands that Michelle Wolf apologize to Sarah Huckabee Sanders from both sides of the media landscape, but President Trump’s recent calls to jail James Comey were not met with the same universal outrage. Nor were his previous calls to jail Hillary Clinton or Huma Abedin. Nor are his claims that Republican investigators in the Justice Department, multiple judges, the Intelligence Community, all Democrats, and the media are executing a “deep state” conspiracy against him.

And I haven’t even touched on Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter, attacking of numerous women based on their looks, beefs with a gold-star families, the Access Hollywood tape, etc.

Are we so desensitized to the indeceny of Donald Trump that we find jokes from a comedian more offensive than authoritarian rhetoric from a U.S. President?

I expect Trump’s supporters to hold a comedian to a higher standard than they hold the President of the United States, but I don’t accept that from important members of the media. Their jobs are too important.

Aside from this, a lot happened this week.

The very same day Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee shut down their Russia probe and prematurely proclaimed that Donald Trump’s campaign did not collude with Russia, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and then-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort in Trump Tower admitted she is an informant for the Russian government.

President Trump had a phone conversation with Fox & Friends that was so unhinged, even they wanted to cut it short.

And on the world stage, while French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel courted President Trump, North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in courted peace. And Americans remained skeptical.

Let’s dive in.

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66th Weekend (April 21–22)

Making It Personal

President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington — Thursday, June 1, 2017 (AP/Rantt Media Edits)

President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington — Thursday, June 1, 2017 (AP/Rantt Media Edits)

As the nation mourned First Lady Barbara Bush (a funeral Trump did not attend), President Trump spent the weekend attacking reporters on Twitter.

First, it was Maggie Haberman.

Then, he went for MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.

This isn’t the first time he’s done this, and it surely won’t be the last. We won’t stop highlighting these personal attacks because this is not business as usual. We must not forget that a man was arrested in January of this year for calling CNN 22 times threatening: Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down…I’m smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours.”

President Trump’s reckless words are being listened to and internalized by his millions of supporters. The prospect of the president radicalizing Americans is dangerous.

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Meanwhile…

  • More of Sean Hannity’s conflicts of interest were revealed and we had more details about what Michael Cohen may have advised Hannity on.

  • Four people were killed by a semi-nude shooter at a Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee. A hero saved the day.

  • President Trump continued…

And Maggie Haberman, who arguably has more access to the White House than any reporter in the country, set the record straight.

Another one.

And of course, can’t end a week without a short and sweet “witch hunt” tweet.

  • While Trump was having Twitter temper tantrums, eroding democratic norms, etc. — the presidents, first ladies, and leaders of the past celebrated the life of Barbara Bush.

Day 459: Monday, April 23

America Has A Neo-Nazi Problem

Members of the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the US, hold a swastika burning after a rally on April 21, 2018 in Draketown, Georgia (Spencer Platt — Getty Images)

Members of the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the US, hold a swastika burning after a rally on April 21, 2018 in Draketown, Georgia (Spencer Platt — Getty Images)

Let’s talk about what happened over the weekend. After holding a Neo-Nazi rally in Newnan, Georgia, white supremacists burned swastikas in the night.

This came after militarized police arrested some anti-Nazi protestors who were wearing masks, invoking a law that was put in place to be enforced against…wait for it…the Ku Klux Klan.

Luckily, this was just a one-off, and it doesn’t typically happen in Americ….can’t finish that sentence. This isn’t just a one-off. America has a neo-Nazi problem and a president who refuses to acknowledge it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is tracking more than 900 hate groups in the U.S. As of last year, the number of total hate groups was up by 17% since 2014. In their recent study, it was up even more. The Washington Post reported in February of this year:

The Southern Poverty Law Center identified 954 groups as hate groups, which it defines as “an organization that — based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities — has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” That number was up from 917 in 2016 and 892 in 2015, according to a study the center released Wednesday.

This is arguably correlated with the rise of Donald Trump, particularly anti-Muslim hate groups. (Note that the surge begins around the time Trump was running for president.)

To further bolster this point, the FBI and DHS reportedly prepared a report dated May 10, 2017, called “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence.” Notably, the report asserted that:

White supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement.”

On June 23, 2017, the Trump administration cut funding ($400,000) from the “Countering Violent Extremism” program which backed an anti-white supremacist organization founded by former neo-Nazis.

And then, of course, came President Trump’s infamous “very fine people on both sides” moment after a radical white supremacist terrorist killed anti-Nazi protestor, Heather Heyer.

Now, we have 29-year-old Travis Reinking, who killed four people (Taurean C.Sanderlin, Joe R. Perez, Akilah Dasilva, and Deebony Groves) over the weekend at a Tennessee Waffle House with an AR-15. James Shaw Jr. heroically tackled him to the ground while he was reloading and threw the weapon over the Waffle House bar, causing Reinking to flee. Reinking was arrested today.

What we know about Reinking so far is that after an incident in 2017 where he tried to enter a restricted area of the White House, his guns were confiscated and returned to his father…who gave the weapons back to him. Reinking told officers that he was a “sovereign citizen,” a far-right anti-government group. The SPLC notes the movement’s connection to white supremacist ideology.

Presidents are supposed to lead us through dark times, but Donald Trump not only refuses to acknowledge that the hate brewing in America is a problem, he stirs the pot.

For a president who obsessively called on Barack Obama to explicitly say “radical Islamic terrorism,” he sure has a hard time saying “radical white supremacist terrorism” while it’s happening on American soil.

In other news, Mississippi and Alabama closed their government offices today for…Confederate Memorial Day.

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Meanwhile…

  • The White House, once again, moved to soften sanctions on Russia. Bloomberg reported:

The U.S. softened its position on sanctions against Russian metals giant United Co. Rusal, sparking a record plunge in aluminum prices.

For the first time, the U.S. Treasury discussed a path for lifting the sanctions on Rusal, saying it would provide relief if Oleg Deripaska relinquished control. It also extended the deadline for companies to wind down dealings with the Russian aluminum producer by almost five months.

Rusal petitioned to be removed from the sanctions list and Treasury granted the extension while it considers the appeal, according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

  • Bloomberg obtained flight records that contradicted Trump’s denials of staying in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant:

President Donald Trump twice gave James Comey an alibi for why a salacious report about the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow couldn’t be true: He never even spent the night in Russia during that trip, Trump told the former FBI director, according to Comey’s memos about the conversations.

Yet the broad timeline of Trump’s stay, stretching from Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, through the following Sunday morning, has been widely reported. And it’s substantiated by social media posts that show he slept in Moscow the night before the Miss Universe contest.

Now, flight records obtained by Bloomberg provide fresh details. Combined with existing accounts and Trump’s own social-media posts, they capture two days that, nearly five years later, loom large in the controversy engulfing the White House and at the heart of the Comey memos, which the Justice Department turned over last week to Congress.

Around the country, Republicans embroiled in tough primaries are increasingly emulating President Trump — by echoing his xenophobia, his veiled racist appeals, his attacks on the news media, and even occasionally his calls for imprisoning his political opponents.

  • After the funeral of First Lady Barbara Bush, President George H.W. Bush was in intensive care.
  • NBC News reported that President Trump’s new national security adviser John Bolton presided over an anti-Muslim think tank.
  • CIA Director, and Secretary of State nominee, Mike Pompeo was voted through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Day 460: Tuesday, April 24

DACA, Macron, And Ronny “Candy Man” Jackson

Carlos Esteban, 31, of Woodbridge, Va., a nursing student and recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, rallies with others in support of DACA outside of the White House, in Washington — Sept. 5, 2017 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Carlos Esteban, 31, of Woodbridge, Va., a nursing student and recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, rallies with others in support of DACA outside of the White House, in Washington — Sept. 5, 2017 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Today, there was a huge victory for 690,000 undocumented Americans (that’s not a typo — they are Americans in every way except on paper) and a huge defeat for 1 president.

After last year’s decision by President Trump to rescind DACA and throw hundreds of thousands of people’s futures into a state of uncertainty, it has been dealt quite a few legal setbacks. But this third ruling deals the largest blow to Trump’s efforts to end DACA and delivers a sigh of relief for those who depend on it.

The Washington Post reported:

A D.C. federal judge has delivered the toughest blow yet to Trump administration efforts to end deportation protections for undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers,” ordering the government to continue the Obama-era program and — for the first time — to accept new applicants.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates called the government’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “virtually unexplained” and therefore “unlawful.” However, he stayed his ruling for 90 days to allow the Department of Homeland Security a chance to provide more solid reasoning for ending the program.

Bates is the third judge to rule against Trump administration attempts to rescind DACA, which provides work permits and deportation protections for about 690,000 undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children.

In his decision Tuesday, Bates said the decision to phase out the program starting in March “was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.”

If the government does not come up with a better explanation within 90 days, he said, the administration’s order to rescind DACA will be vacated and “DHS must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.”

This is welcome news. Despite Chief of Staff John Kelly’s assertion that these people are “too lazy to get off their asses,” over 90% of DACA recipients are employed.

According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of DACA recipients are ages 25 or younger, and a majority are women. Here is where they are from:

They were brought here when they were kids, and this is the only country they’ve ever known.

The numbers don’t lie. These people are young, employed, and productive members of American society. Today’s ruling is promising, but it’s not over yet. We’ll soon see if they get the treated with the dignity they deserve.

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Meanwhile…

  • French President Emmanuel Macron was received with much fanfare today, as he successfully wooed President Trump. Macron was met with the Trump White House’s first State Dinner — planned by Melania Trump. In a day filled with handshakes, kisses on the cheek, and mutually complimentary language, Macron’s main priorities were to convince Trump to remain in the Iran Deal and not pull out of Syria prematurely. Although it’s unclear exactly how much progress has been made on that front, it’s very clear he’s won Trump’s heart.

  • Veteran Affairs Secretary nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson faced allegations of fostering a toxic work environment, being drunk on the job, and overprescribing medication. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) told CNN that Jackson was known to hand out prescriptions “like candy” — so much so that he was known as “the candy man” in the White House. CNN later reported one of the most detailed accounts of alleged misconduct from Jackson:

During an overseas trip in 2015, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, was intoxicated and banged on the hotel room door of a female employee, according to four sources familiar with the allegation.

The incident became so noisy, one source familiar with the allegation told CNN, that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake then-President Barack Obama.

The White House stood by Dr. Jackson. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has indefinitely postponed his confirmation hearing.

  • As Iran threatened that it might quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty, President Trump signaled he’s open to a new deal with European allies to constrain Iran.
  • Some news about Trump’s former Campaign Chairman — current indictee — Paul Manafort. Manafort was reportedly interviewed twice by the FBI during the time he was doing his work in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014. A court filing today revealed that in the raid of Manafort’s home last year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller sought evidence related to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Kushner, Don Jr., Manafort, and Russian operatives. Also, Mueller reportedly reviewed Manafort’s testimony regarding Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Context: Manafort served as a lobbyist and political consultant for pro-Russia Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. He started in 2004, reportedly upon the advice of Russian oligarch and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, and helped Yanukovych reshape his political image. His work went on for years. Manafort received millions in undisclosed cash payments. Work he was indicted for.

Manafort also reportedly had a $10 million a year contract with Oleg Deripaska. The contract was part of a plan to assert pro-Russia influence in U.S. politics and lasted from 2006–2009. Paul Manafort moved into Trump Tower in 2006.

Two weeks before Trump accepted the GOP nomination; Paul Manafort reportedly offered “private briefings” on the state of the 2016 election to Oleg Deripaska.

  • Attorney General Jeff Session has decided not to recuse himself from the Michael Cohen probe.
MSNBC Justice & Security Analyst

MSNBC Justice & Security Analyst

  • Speaking of Cohen, when asked about whether or not he would pardon him, Trump had quite the response.

Sean Hannity’s real estate venture bought houses through a property dealer who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently obtain foreclosed homes, according to records reviewed by the Guardian.

In 2012, a shell company linked to the Fox News host bought 11 homes in Georgia that had been purchased by the dealer, Jeff Brock, following foreclosures. Brock transferred the properties to corporate vehicles that sold them on to the Hannity-linked company at a profit.

Brock pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges of bank fraud and conspiracy for his role in an operation to rig foreclosure auctions between 2007 and 2012. He was sentenced to six months in prison and had to pay more than $166,000 in fines and restitution.

  • Rapper Meek Mill was freed from jail after being unjustly imprisoned.
  • Here are the results of the Arizona and New York special elections.

Day 461: Wednesday, April 25

Views From The Swamp

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds up a copy of President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget — Tuesday, May 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds up a copy of President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget — Tuesday, May 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” slogan finally makes sense. Trump’s aim was clearly to drain it in order to make room for more swamp creatures.

Today, we have Budget Director and interim Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Mick Mulvaney. Apparently, when he’s not working overtime to render the CFPB ineffective, he’s bragging about pay-to-play. The New York Times reported:

WASHINGTON — Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

At the top of the hierarchy, he added, were his constituents. “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” said Mr. Mulvaney, who received nearly $63,000 from payday lenders for his congressional campaigns.

This came as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Scott Pruitt was preparing to face questions on Capitol Hill from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Appropriations Committee tomorrow. The topics of concern are over his misuse of taxpayer money, sketchy condo arrangement with a Washington lobbyist, and much more we won’t get into right now.

In other swamp-related news, HUD Secretary Ben Carson — who has been under fire for purchasing a $31,000 dining set with taxpayer money — proposed policies that will push low-income people out of federal housing.

The Washington Post reported:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed far-reaching changes to federal housing subsidies Wednesday, tripling rent for the poorest households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements.

Carson’s proposals, and other initiatives aimed at low-income Americans receiving federal assistance, amount to a comprehensive effort by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress to restrict access to the safety net and reduce the levels of assistance for those who do qualify.

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Meanwhile…

  • Rudy Giuliani has met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. CNN reported:

Rudy Giuliani, newly added to President Donald Trump’s legal team, met this week with the special counsel to discuss the potential of an interview with Trump, two sources told CNN.

The sources said the negotiations will continue, and one confirmed special counsel Robert Mueller was in the meeting.

Although Trump has previously said publicly he would like to do an interview with Mueller, the other source stressed that Trump’s willingness changed after the raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen, describing the change as a “seismic shift” in the President’s thinking.

  • Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen pled the fifth amendment in the Stormy Daniels case. CNN reported:

Michael Cohen, the longtime personal attorney for President Donald Trump, filed court papers Wednesday indicating he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination regarding his involvement in a hush money deal involving porn star Stormy Daniels and the President.

Cohen cited FBI raids of his residence, office and hotel room and the seizure of “various electronic devices and documents in my possession,” in his filing in US District Court in Los Angeles.

“Based upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my Fifth Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and US Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Cohen said.

Cohen filed the declaration as part of an effort to have a civil lawsuit filed by Daniels put on hold. The judge in that case said last week that he needed to hear from Cohen directly before deciding on that request.

  • A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from cutting funding to Planned Parenthood.
  • President Trump’s Muslim immigration ban is being reviewed by the Supreme Court and key Justices seem skeptical.
  • Although a Republican won in Arizona’s 8th District in the special election on Tuesday, given how much the margin tightened, it’s yet another bad sign for the GOP.
  • Kanye West went full MAGA.

Trump responded.

And so did the people.

Day 462: Thursday, April 26

Fox & Friends, & Foes, & Fake News

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington — Tuesday, March 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington — Tuesday, March 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Trump woke up this morning and substituted his usual tweetstorm while watching Fox & Friends with an actual appearance on the show. And it was certainly a call for the books. From reckless admissions to attacks on the independence of the DOJ, the call was a mixtape of Donald Trump’s greatest hits:

The Admission: As we know, President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen is facing a criminal investigation that involves his business dealings (among other things), as well as potential bank fraud and campaign finance violations pertaining to his hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen (who recently pled the fifth) made the $130,000 payment on behalf of Donald Trump just days before the 2016 election. Trump has previously claimed to have no knowledge of the arrangement, but today he said Cohen represents “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal representation and went on to say this: “He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. And from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer rejoiced:

As NBC News reported, prosecutors handling the Cohen case in New York’s Southern District wasted no time using the call to their advantage:

Prosecutors in New York quickly referenced Trump’s comments on Fox in a court filing later Thursday to suggest that there are not large amounts of documents that would be protected by attorney-client privilege that were seized by the FBI earlier this month from Cohen’s office and hotel room.

“Trump reportedly said on cable television this morning that Cohen performs ‘a tiny, tiny little fraction’ of his overall legal work. These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here,” said the filing by the U.S. Attorneys Office ahead of a court hearing on Thursday.

The Attack On The Rule Of Law: President Trump continued to call Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt. Trump also repeated his lies that Democrats are the ones leading the investigation. Trump also escalated his attacks on the DOJ, saying: “Our Justice Department, which I try to stay away from, but pretty soon I won’t.” Needless to say, presidents don’t speak like this, authoritarians do. Compound this with Trump’s repeated cries of fake news (which were peppered throughout this call, including calling Chuck Todd “sleepy-eyed” again), calls to jail private citizens he deems political opponents, efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation, and you have a President who is hell-bent on eroding democratic norms.

The Attack On Comey: Speaking of calls to jail private citizens, President Trump continued his onslaught on former FBI Director James Comey (who Trump has called to be jailed). Trump again called him a liar, a leaker, and said that Comey made up the story about how Trump told him he didn’t stay in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant when in fact he did.

Also during the call, President Trump said he would support a voting process based on the popular vote, not the electoral college…

Oh, and it was Melania’s birthday, and according to Trump, he got her a card and flowers.

There’s a lot more that was ranted about. For a play-by-play Twitter thread, check this out.

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Meanwhile…

  • Dr. Ronny Jackson finally withdrew his name from consideration for Secretary of Veterans Affairs after being consumed by allegations.
  • In a 14–7 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill that provides added protection in the case President Trump moves to fire Mueller without cause moved forward. As I’ve said before, the bill doesn’t go far enough. For example, the bill does not protect Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or implement protections for Mueller if a Rosenstein replacement meddles in the probe’s scope. Firing Rosenstein could end up being the more savvy move on Trump’s part because the replacement could quietly meddle in the probe without firing Mueller. Keep an eye on this.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday defended his decision not to appoint a second special prosecutor to investigate Republicans’ concerns about the FBI by noting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe had already taken on “a life of its own.”

House Chaplain Patrick Conroy’s sudden resignation has sparked a furor on Capitol Hill, with sources in both parties saying he was pushed out by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Conroy’s own resignation announcement stated that it was done at Ryan’s request.

The thinking among Democrats is that Ryan pushed Conroy out “because Republicans thought he was aligned with Democrats,” according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the discussion.

House chaplains, who offer an opening prayer each day the House is in session, are supposed to be nonpartisan.

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Scott Pruitt was grilled on Capitol Hill by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.
  • Former CIA Director Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Secretary of State by the Senate in a 57-to-42 vote.
  • The White House released a historic photo of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un meeting with Mike Pompeo over Easter Weekend.

  • Speaking of Kim Jong Un, he arrived in South Korea to begin the first meeting between the two leaders in more than a decade.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who pushed for the Special Counsel bill to move forward in his committee in spite of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s objections, said he wants to release transcripts from the testimonies of Donald Trump Jr. and other participants of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives.
  • A jury found Bill Cosby guilty on all three felony counts against him for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • President Trump appeared to threaten the United Nations.

  • Trump surrogates Diamond & Silk lied to Congress, asserting that they have never been paid by the Trump campaign: “We are familiar with that particular lie. We can see that you do fall for fake news.” Documents from the Federal Election Commission say otherwise: They were paid $1,274.94.

Day 463: Friday, April 27

“If it’s what you say I love it”

Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland — July 20, 2016. (AP/Matt Rourke)

Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland — July 20, 2016. (AP/Matt Rourke)

We all know about the infamous June 9, 2016, meeting. The one where Donald Trump Jr., then-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and other Russian operatives in Trump Tower. We know that this meeting was taken after British Publicist Rob Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. responded to that email with:

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

If that was not damning enough, what we learned today makes this meeting appear downright nefarious.

We all knew that Veselnitskaya had close ties to the Kremlin, but today we learned just how close. The New York Times reported:

Ms. Veselnitskaya also appears to have recanted her earlier denials of Russian government ties. During an interview to be broadcast Friday by NBC News, she acknowledged that she was not merely a private lawyer but a source of information for a top Kremlin official, Yuri Y. Chaika, the prosecutor general.

“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she said. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”

The story goes on to detail email exchanges revealing that Veselnitskaya helped to craft the Russian government’s response to the U.S. Justice Department’s prosecution of Denis P. Katsyv for money laundering.

This contradicts what Veselnitskaya told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “I operate independently of any governmental bodies.”

If you’re interested in an excellent deep dive into Veselnitskaya’s past and Kremlin ties, check out this article from Rantt’s Managing Editor Remy Anne.

To recap: Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and then-Campaign Chairman Manafort, met with a Russian lawyer/informant/adviser in Trump Tower after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian Government. This new development also builds on the case that the Trump Tower meeting doubled as a Russian intelligence-gathering operation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has shown interest in this meeting. In his obstruction case, Mueller has been looking into whether or not President Donald Trump tried to conceal the nature of this meeting when he personally dictated Trump Jr.’s initial misleading characterization of the meeting. And like I mentioned earlier this week, a court filing revealed that in the raid of Manafort’s home last year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller sought evidence related to the Trump Tower meeting (Manafort reportedly took notes about the meeting that included the words “RNC” and “donation.”)

The Full Meeting Breakdown

  • Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, the Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, Russian interpreter and a representative for Aras Agalarov, Ike Kaveladze were at this June 9th meeting at Trump tower
  • Goldstone, publicist, and former British tabloid reporter, was the intermediary for setting up the meeting
  • Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Clinton before agreeing to attend
  • Veselnitskaya was lobbying against Russian sanctions, and has testified that during the meeting Trump Jr. asked for damning information Hillary Clinton
  • Trump Jr. was told it was part of Russia’s effort to support his father’s candidacy (with email confirmation via Trump Jr. himself)
  • Goldstone was told to set up the meeting by the son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov
  • Trump Jr. didn’t appear surprised by Goldstone’s declaration that the Russian government supports his father
  • There seemed to have been a phone call between Emin Agalarov and Donald Trump Jr. on June 6th
  • Trump Sr. was one floor above the meeting at Trump Tower while the meeting took place

For yet another excellent deep dive into the players involved in the Trump Tower meeting and what happened, check out this article from Remy Anne.

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Meanwhile…

The leaders of North and South Korea agreed on Friday to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and, within the year, pursue talks with the United States to declare an official end to the Korean War, which ravaged the peninsula from 1950 to 1953.

At a historic summit meeting, the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South, the leaders vowed to negotiate a treaty to replace a truce that has kept an uneasy peace on the divided Korean Peninsula for more than six decades. A peace treaty has been one of the incentives North Korea has demanded in return for dismantling its nuclear program.

“South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” read a statement signed by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South’s president, Moon Jae-in, after their meeting at the border village of Panmunjom.

Kim Jong Un, left, and Moon Jae-in, hold hands as they cross the Military Demarcation Line in Paju. (Source: Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/Pool via Bloomberg)

Kim Jong Un, left, and Moon Jae-in, hold hands as they cross the Military Demarcation Line in Paju. (Source: Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/Pool via Bloomberg)

This is very promising, but we should remain skeptical nonetheless. As we’ve seen with the Kims of the past, peace has been offered only to be rescinded.

  • The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee released their report on Russian interference, prematurely shutting down the investigation and claiming there was no collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Democrats claimed there were major stones left unturned. The House’s probe has been beleaguered by Rep. Devin Nunes and other sycophants. From the widely debunked memo alleging FISA abuses to the unmasking scandal engineered by the White House, the Republicans on the committee have worked overtime to spread disinformation and try to undermine Mueller’s investigation. Keep that in mind while reading about this development.

The report also revealed that Trump’s former National Security Adviser, now-felon, Michael Flynn and his son Michael Flynn Jr. met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 2, 2015 at his house. Also in the report…

Trump immediately cried vindication and called for the probe to be ended.

  • President Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A lawsuit filed by an adult-film actress over an alleged “hush money” deal with President Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen will be put on hold for three months because of a criminal investigation Cohen is facing, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero said it appeared “likely” that Cohen would be indicted in connection with the ongoing investigation, which led to search warrant raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in New York earlier this month.

The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions.

The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin — a relationship that ensnared members of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.

  • Speaking of the Agalarovs…

The White House said Friday that internal records raise doubt about some of the most serious allegations leveled against White House doctor Ronny Jackson in his failed bid to become the next secretary of Veterans Affairs. Jackson withdrew his nomination Thursday after allegations by current and former colleagues raised questions about his prescribing practices and leadership ability, including accusations of drunkenness on the job.

Immigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations, according to a Times review of federal lawsuits, internal ICE documents and interviews.

Since 2012, ICE has released from its custody more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship claims, according to agency figures. And a Times review of Department of Justice records and interviews with immigration attorneys uncovered hundreds of additional cases in the country’s immigration courts in which people were forced to prove they are Americans and sometimes spent months or even years in detention.

The Trump administration has drafted a proposal that would freeze fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles starting in 2021 and challenge California’s ability to set its own fuel-efficiency rules, changes that would hobble one of the Obama administration’s most significant initiatives to curb climate change.

  • Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced a pay raise for teachers of 20 percent by 2020 on the second day of the teacher walkout.
  • Conservative news outlet Red State fired writers for being critical of President Trump.
  • After President Trump tried to thank Kanye West and Chance the Rapper for their support, Chance made it very clear that he does not support President Trump.

Chance clarified.

Over the weekend…

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Alabama (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Alabama (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

President Trump awoke on Saturday and vented his frustration with Senator Tester.

Later in the day, he would pick up on this thread. Instead of attending the White House Correspondents Dinner, President Trump held a rally in Michigan and attacked what he deems “fake news.”

One of the most noteworthy moments was when he appeared to threaten Tester.

Also, Trump hit his usual talking points.

Meanwhile…

  • The White House Correspondents dinner ruffled some conservative feathers, as well as some in the media.

This was a far more important line.

Michelle Wolf ended her speech by reminding everyone that Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

  • There was a Saturday night questioning.

  • And a development from North Korea…

  • Dr. Ronny Jackson is out.

  • On Sunday, the defenses of Sarah Huckabee Sanders continued on all sides.

And while this was transpiring, Buzzfeed News reported:

The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual

The media contacts policy was updated in the manual in November. A subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was removed entirely. That section, which was included in versions of the manual at least as far back as 1988, according to DOJ archives, read as follows:

“Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy.”

New sections were added to the media contacts policy. One states that it is illegal to share classified information with someone who isn’t authorized to receive it. Another directs DOJ employees to report “any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter.” And another outlines protections for government whistleblowers, detailing the protections in place for prosecutors if they report concerns internally.

Unpresidented // Donald Trump / Government / Journalism / Politics