Eye on 45
CN&R’s biweekly rundown of news out of the Trump White House and Congress
The 10th installment of Eye on 45 begins a few days after the publication of multiple media reports about President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, being a focus in the investigation into the potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia related to that country’s interference in the 2016 election.
May 29: It’s learned that, prior to Trump’s inauguration, Kushner, the president’s senior adviser, reportedly spoke with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., about setting up a “secret and secure communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin,” as The Washington Post put it.
The same day, Reuters reports that Kushner had been in contact with Kislyak at least three times but had never disclosed that such interactions had taken place.
The stories back up reporting in April about Kushner having omitted his contacts with Russians on FBI forms he’d submitted—and signed under penalty of perjury—to receive a security clearance.
Meanwhile, Trump tweets that he would make a decision soon on whether the U.S. would stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.
May 30: United States intelligence agencies heard conversations between Russian officials during the general election campaign indicating the Kremlin has dirt on the president that officials there believe give them the “ability to influence the administration,” CNN reports.
Meanwhile, Trump’s longtime private attorney, Michael Cohen, becomes the subject of the investigation into Russian meddling in the campaign.
May 31: White House officials tell The New York Times that Trump will indeed pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, despite opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.
The Kaiser Family Foundation releases a poll showing that only 8 percent of Americans think the Senate should pass the GOP’s health care bill.
Another poll, released on May 31 by Politico/Morning Consult, indicates more than 40 percent of Americans want to see Trump impeached.
By far, the biggest news of the day is James Comey, the former FBI director, agreeing to testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
June 1: As expected, Trump pulls the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. In doing so, America joins two other countries—Nicaragua and Syria—as the holdouts to the accord.
The fallout of POTUS’ decision includes castigation by numerous high-profile figures, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who announces he is stepping down from his role as a member of multiple presidential councils.
Yale releases a poll indicating that 69 percent of voters think the United States should partake in the Paris accord.
CNN reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under scrutiny for yet another undisclosed contact with the Russian ambassador, Kislyak. Sessions, during his Senate confirmation hearing, denied having met with Russian officials during the presidential election campaign. It was later revealed that he’d had two meetings with the ambassador. He was subsequently forced to recuse himself from the investigations into the Kremlin’s efforts to manipulate the election.
June 2: Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, also is overseeing the criminal investigation into Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, reports The Associated Press.
Additionally, Reuters reports Mueller is looking into Mike Flynn, Trump’s embattled former national security adviser. Flynn reportedly lied to Pentagon investigators about taking money from Russian companies. He also lied about his communications with Russian officials. He was forced out of Trump’s White House a few weeks into his tenure.
June 5: Gallup releases a poll in which Trump’s approval rating is pegged at 36 percent.
June 6: Politico reports that the GOP is focused on having a vote on Obamacare’s repeal in the Senate by the end of the month.
A report in Forbes indicates that the for-profit Trump Organization siphoned off more than $100,000 from a charity event organized by Eric Trump for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in which 100 percent of proceeds were expected to go to the hospital.
June 7: Trump reportedly asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, if he “could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe,” as The Washington Post put it. The president’s alleged move to pressure Comey through Coats took place in March.
Also that day, the Post and The New York Times report that Trump, beginning shortly after his inauguration, directly and repeatedly pressed Comey related to the Russia inquiry and its focus on Flynn. The president allegedly asked for his loyalty and, among other things, asked what could be done to “lift the cloud [of suspicion].”
The Times also reports that, following Trump’s troubling requests, Comey told Sessions that he did not want to be left alone again with the president.
ABC News releases a poll revealing that 61 percent of Americans believe Trump fired Comey to protect himself from the FBI chief’s Russia probe.
June 8: Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The major takeaways: He believes that Trump attempted to interfere with the investigation; that the president defamed him and the FBI; that the president is a liar (when asked about why he documented his conversations with Trump, Comey answered, “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting”). Comey believes his abrupt firing is related to the Russia investigation; he also believes that Trump was giving him an order when he said, “I hope you can let this go”—a reference to Flynn being a subject of the probe.
During his testimony, Comey acknowledges that he leaked memos of his conversations with the president to a friend, who subsequently shared them with reporters.
The same day, The Washington Post publishes an op-ed by Philip Allen Lacovara, a counsel to Watergate special prosecutors, in which the former U.S. deputy solicitor general writes, “Any experienced prosecutor would see [the facts as told by Comey] as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.”
While Washington was busy covering Comey’s testimony, the House approved legislation that would gut major financial regulations installed by the approval of the Dodd-Frank Act. The move would, among other things, “diminish the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which oversees the practices of companies that provide products and services from credit cards and payday loans to mortgages and debt collection,” according to the Post.
June 9: Trump takes to Twitter in response to Comey’s testimony: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!”