Eye on 45

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

Photo by Gage Skidmore (via Flickr)

The reporting on the Trump-Russia investigation went into overdrive these past couple of weeks as the president’s closest confidants began lawyering up. However, based on a roundup of the events in POTUS’ orbit between late June and this week, the moves to retain defense attorneys may be warranted.

June 24: The Associated Press reports that President Trump plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in spite of State Department and National Security Council officials urging caution. The meeting would occur while the two world leaders are in Germany for the G20 meeting.

Speaking during an interview with Fox News, Ivanka Trump says, “I try to stay out of politics.” It was in answer to a question about her father’s tweets. Trump’s eldest daughter serves as a “special assistant to the president.”

June 26: The New York Times reports that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has hired Abbe D. Lowell, a famous trial lawyer from WilmerHale, the law firm Robert Mueller worked at prior to being named special counsel in the investigation into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the time Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump.

POTUS ramps up his anti-media rhetoric following news that CNN retracted a story that claimed a Russian investor who met with a member of Trump’s transition team was being investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

June 27: Without enough support from his party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postpones a vote on the Senate’s so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act, the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The move comes a few days after the Congressional Budget Office revealed the proposed law would leave 22 million additional Americans without insurance within a decade.

June 28: Bloomberg reports that one-time Trump campaign Manager Paul Manafort, who’s being investigated in the Russia probe, raked in $17 million from a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party between 2013 and 2014. Manafort was previously busted for failing to disclose with the federal government his work on behalf a foreign nation—a felony. The latest revelation came from his late filing of the required paperwork.

Manafort served as Trump’s campaign manager for about five months. He was forced to resign following revelations of his financial ties to the Ukrainian political party.

Three polls released during the day reveal that between 12 percent (USA Today survey) and 17 percent (NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey) of Americans approve of the Senate’s revised health care plan. The third poll (Quinnipiac University) pegs the number at 16 percent.

June 29: In a series of tweets, Trump attacks Mika Brzezinski, one of the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. POTUS referred to her as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and said that she’d been at Trump compound Mar-a-Lago after undergoing a facelift, an operation that left her “bleeding badly.” He also went after Brzezinski’s fiancé, the eponymous Joe, Joe Scarborough, whom he referred to as “Psycho Joe.”

The same day, a revised version of Trump’s so-called travel ban goes into effect. Among other things, the 90-day order applies to six majority-Muslim countries and bars visas to anyone who does not have a close relationship with a family member in the United States based on the State Department’s new definition of a “close family member” as well as to those who are unable to show a connection to a business or school. The move came three days after the Supreme Court announced—in a split decision—that it would allow the scaled back version of Trump’s initial ban, which was blocked by federal courts shortly after the president’s inauguration. The High Court will take up the case in the fall.

June 30: In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Scarborough and Brzezinski of Morning Joe charge that Trump’s top aides attempted to blackmail them with the threat of a National Enquirer hit piece should they continue to criticize the president.

July 2: The president tweets a link to a doctored, decade-old video clip of him body-slamming and punching Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) fame but with the CNN logo superimposed over McMahon’s head.

Meanwhile, thousands of citizens in 45 cities around the nation, including Los Angeles, participate in demonstrations calling for POTUS’ impeachment.

July 4: Following news that North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 3, the Trump administration responds by saying the U.S. would use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal,” reports The New York Times.

According to the country’s own news agency, Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, said the missile could reach the “heart of the United States.” He also said the launch was a “gift” to POTUS for July 4 holiday.

July 5: Trump departs for Europe to attend the G20 summit, first stopping in Poland.

July 6: An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll reveals that a majority of Americans (54 percent) believe the president “has done something either illegal or unethical when it comes to Russia.”

July 7: Trump meets in private with Putin for more than two hours during his overseas travels for the G20, but his administration offers few details about the exchange. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was there, as was Putin’s foreign minister and two interpreters, reports The New York Times. Tillerson told reporters that POTUS pressed Putin regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. However, Putin’s man said Trump “accepts” the Russian president’s denial of any such meddling, reports the Times.

July 9: A bombshell. The Times reports that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., set up a meeting at Trump Tower last summer with a Russian attorney with ties to the Kremlin who’d promised to provide him with damaging info about then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Also there: son-in-law Kushner and Manafort, then the manager of Trump’s campaign.

July 10: Trump attempts to turn the spotlight on James Comey, the FBI director whom he fired under suspicious circumstances. At 3:40 a.m., he tweets, “James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!”

The same day, he again takes to Twitter, using a veiled threat to get Republicans on board with the Senate’s health care bill: “I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!”

Also that day, Vanity Fair reports that Donald Jr. has hired high-powered criminal defense attorney Alan Futerfas.

July 11: During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Scarborough, of Morning Joe, announces he’s leaving the Republican Party.

The New York Times, citing an email to Donald Jr. written by “a trusted intermediary” in which there was an offer to give him info damaging to Clinton, reports that POTUS’ son knew that the Kremlin was the provider of said info. The intermediary’s message: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

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