Eye on 45

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Photo by Gage Skidmore via flickr

This week’s Eye on 45, the 11th installment of CN&R’s biweekly feature, begins on the Monday following former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee—the apex thus far of the investigation into the Trump team’s potential role in Russia’s interference into the 2016 general election.

June 12: The Washington Post reports that, a few days before Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ scheduled testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Justice Department argued that it’s OK for the president’s businesses to take in money from foreign governments. The DOJ’s position is a defense for the charges Trump faces under the so-called emoluments clause.

During an interview on ABC’s This Week, Preet Bharara, a former federal prosecutor whom Trump cut loose a few months into his presidency, told reporters he had a story eerily similar to the one Comey laid out during testimony the previous week—that, as The New York Times put it, “Trump tried to cultivate a relationship with [Bharara] in the months before he was abruptly fired in March.”

Bharara described a meeting with the then-President-elect at Trump Tower, followed by several phone calls in which the president made small talk. After the last missed call, which Bharara did not return and instead informed the DOJ about, he was abruptly fired.

In a new poll, by Public Policy Polling, 49 percent of American voters say they believe the president committed obstruction of justice; 37 percent think he’s honest; a majority (53 percent) say Trump’s a liar; and 47 percent want him impeached.

June 13: The New York Times reports that Trump is considering firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel who’s leading the independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The revelation came from Trump ally Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media, a conservative media company.

The biggest news of the day was Sessions’ sometimes contentious testimony during a meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sessions fervently denied colluding with the Russians; denied meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in April 2016; and countered certain aspects of Comey’s recent testimony—specifically, the former FBI director’s allegation that, as the Times put it, Sessions “had not responded when Mr. Comey asked him not to leave him alone with Mr. Trump again.” The attorney general charges he agreed that the FBI and DOJ needed “to follow follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House.”

Sessions would not repeat the conversations he engaged in with Trump about the Russia probe and Comey’s dismissal, despite the fact that the president hadn’t invoked “executive privilege,” a move that would shield such communications.

The same day, The Associated Press reports that POTUS referred to the House bill to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) as “mean.”

Meanwhile, according to ProPublica, Marc Kasowitz, the president’s personal attorney, bragged to friends that he was instrumental in Bharara’s firing.

June 14: The Washington Post reports that Mueller, the special counsel, is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice.

The New York Times reports that the so-called American Health Care Act is so unpopular that is not supported by any state in the nation. In fact, as the Times put it, “[the proposed legislation] is the most unpopular piece of major legislation Congress has considered in decades … and much more unpopular than the [ACA].”

Bloomberg reports that POTUS revised the language of his languishing proposed 90-day travel ban—a prohibition on entry to the U.S. from certain foreign nations, mostly Muslim-majority countries—because that three-month period would have expired on June 15.

CNN Money reports that Trump earned an “F” in a survey administered at Yale’s CEO Summit, an event attended by CEOs, government officials, academics and other conservative heavy hitters.

June 16: The Washington Post reports that Mueller’s investigation now includes Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—specifically, Kushner’s business affairs.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Trump family event planner Lynne Patton has been tapped to lead the New York/New Jersey regional office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Patton has worked for Housing Secretary Ben Carson for a few months, but prior to that had no experience in the realm.

Under Trump, the Pentagon will send upward of 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to battle the Taliban, reports The Washington Post.

June 22: Senate Republicans release their 142-page health care bill, the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act, revealing a plan that would gut Medicaid and many of the patient services mandated under the ACA, including mental health treatment, and eliminate coverage for tens of millions. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell found immediate pushback from within his party.

Despite what he’d implied on Twitter weeks earlier, Trump tweets that he didn’t tape his conversations with Comey.

June 23: An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reveals that Americans, by a 2-to-1 margin, believe Comey over Trump in regard to the events leading to the former FBI director’s firing.