Eye on 45

CN&R’s biweekly rundown of news out of the Trump White House and Congress

The ninth installment of Eye on 45 begins on the day Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the United States, reveals who he’s chosen to lead an investigation into the ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

Rosenstein’s announcement is an answer to calls from members of both major parties for an independent investigation into the matter. While Democrats had long asked for such action, many prominent Republicans joined the chorus when Trump abruptly fired James Comey, the FBI director who had been at the helm of that agency’s Russia probe.

May 17: Rosenstein announces that former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead the Russia investigation. Mueller led the FBI from 2001 to 2013, working during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The same day, The Hill reports that a few House Republicans, in response to news that Trump had pressured Comey for his loyalty, started speaking publicly about impeachment should those reports ring true.

May 18: President Trump, vexed by the previous day’s news, tweets: “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”

May 19: The Washington Post reports that one of the president’s senior advisers is a person of interest in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential coordination with Russian officials to manipulate the results of the general election in Trump’s favor.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that, during his meeting with Russian officials at the White House on May 10, the president besmirched Comey and spoke about cutting him loose. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump reportedly said. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Another bombshell that day: Comey agrees to testify during a public hearing of the House Oversight Committee about the circumstances surrounding his firing.

Meanwhile, Trump begins his maiden trip abroad as president of the United States. His first stop: Saudi Arabia.

May 21: Michael Flynn, Trump’s embattled former national security adviser, lied to Pentagon investigators about taking money from Russian companies, reports The New York Times. In addition, he lied about his communications with Russian officials, according to the newspaper.

Flynn, a retired U.S. general, resigned less than a month into his White House job after it was revealed he’d met in private with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and lied to Vice President Mike Pence about that. Later, it was revealed that Flynn did not follow federal laws related to disclosure of payments from foreign governments—in his case, Russia and Turkey.

May 22: Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in response to a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, reports Politico.

The Washington Post reports that the president asked a couple of top intelligence officials to tamp down an investigation of potential collusion between his campaign and Russia. Trump’s alleged request occurred after Comey, the now-fired FBI chief, acknowledged the existence of said investigation.

Reuters reports that Comey decided to postpone his testimony before the House Oversight Committee until he has a chance to speak with Mueller, the head of the independent Russian probe.

May 23: The Washington Post reports that Trump’s proposed budget includes an estimated $800 billion reduction to Medicaid over the next decade. That reduced level of funding will result in the loss of benefits for an estimated 10 million people, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate Intelligence Committee issues two new subpoenas as part of the panel’s investigation into Flynn, this time focusing on the former national security adviser’s businesses, reports Politico.

May 24: During Trump’s visit to Vatican City, Pope Francis gives him a copy of “Laudato Si,” his treatise on the global community’s obligation to curb climate change. The gift comes as POTUS is deliberating on pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces renewed criticism following revelations he did not disclose his contacts with Russian officials during a screening for security clearance. A spokesman for the Justice Department, the agency Sessions leads, told The New York Times that Sessions omitted the meetings based on direction from advisers and an FBI investigator, and because such contacts were “connected with his Senate activities.”

May 26: The president’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, is a focus of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia, reports The Washington Post.