Rantt Rundown: Fox And Friends, And Foes, And Fake News
President Trump woke up this morning and, rather than doing his usual tweetstorm while watching Fox & Friends, he called into 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 also 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’s 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.
- Dr. Ronny Jackson finally withdrew his name from consideration for Secretary of Veterans Affairs after being consumed by allegations of fostering a toxic work environment, being drunk on the job, and overprescribing medication.
- In a 14–7 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill that provides added protections 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.
- Reuters reported:
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.”
- The Hill reported:
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. The topics of concern were over his misuse of taxpayer money, sketchy condo arrangement with a Washington lobbyist, and much more we won’t get into right now.
- 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 the testimonies of Donald Trump Jr. and other participants in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives.
- A jury found Bill Cosby guilty on all 3 felony counts against him for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
- 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.