Eye on 45
CN&R’s biweekly rundown of news out of the Trump White House and Congress
The saga of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer took much of the attention from the elder Trump’s visit to Europe for the G20 summit, but POTUS still generated his own headlines with his characteristic loose lips and Twitter fingers. He expressed frustration with Republicans who “do little to protect their President”—including the attorney general, who he apparently thinks has that duty in the job description—and the Senate for not having repealed and replaced Obamacare.
July 11: Donald Trump Jr. releases via Twitter the email conversation that set up his meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. He says the meeting ended up focusing on adoptions, not incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton. The White House states that President Trump had been unaware of the meeting, ABC News reports.
July 12: POTUS and First Lady Melania Trump head to France, where 14 percent of people have confidence that Trump will “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” according to the Pew Research Center. Trump tweets, “The W.H. is functioning perfectly.”
July 13: Senate Republicans release a health care bill, and the Washington Post reports Trump said he “will be very angry” if it doesn’t pass.
NPR reports that a security clearance form shows U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he hadn’t had any contact with a foreign government in the past seven years.
Trump tells Reuters that his administration has “done more in five months than practically any president in history.” The same day, a Gallup poll is released showing that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s performance based on his personality and character.
July 14: The Associated Press reports that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist and former Russian counterintelligence officer, was also in attendance at Donald Jr.’s meeting with the Russian attorney. Others present were Trump senior adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort and publicist Rob Goldstone, who helped set up the meeting.
The White House adds an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer to its team, Bloomberg reports. Ty Cobb will handle legal and media-related issues regarding the Russian probe from Trump’s 2016 campaign. ProPublica reports that Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, sent a series of emails to a critic, including one stating, “Watch your back, bitch.”
July 17: Politico reports that the Trump re-election campaign spent over a half-million dollars in legal fees between April and June of this year, including $50,000 to Alan Futerfas, Donald Jr.’s newly hired attorney whose specialty is white-collar criminal defense—two weeks before emails were released that discussed a meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Homeland Security says it will release Mar-a-lago visitor records in response to a public records lawsuit, Politico reports. The same day, the Senate announces it will postpone its vote on health care until Sen. John McCain recovers from surgery, according to The New York Times.
July 18: The Washington Post reports that four Senate Republicans oppose the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, effectively killing it. In response, Trump tweets, “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!”
The Post also reveals the identity of another participant in Donald Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer: Ike Kaveladze, who represents Russian developers who hosted Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. Including a translator and a Russian participant’s relative, that brings the attendance tally to eight.
It’s also revealed that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the meeting. Meanwhile, the same meeting has some White House staff concerned that Kushner’s security clearance is in jeopardy, CNN reports.
The New York Times reports that Trump claimed he’s signed more bills than any other president. He’d signed 42 as of the week of July 18, but President Jimmy Carter had signed 70 bills in his first six months.
July 19: Reuters reports that Trump held a second, previously unpublicized conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit. The Washingon Post reports that the Supreme Court will allow Trump’s travel ban and broadened the definition for those considered “close family” to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws. The Wall Street Journal reveals that the U.S. military spends over $130,000 a month to lease space in Trump Tower, despite the fact that Trump hasn’t spent a night there since he became president.
July 20: The New York Times reports that Trump is disappointed in Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Despite the president’s harsh words, Sessions says he’ll stay in his role.
Bloomberg reports that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation includes Trump’s businesses as well as those of Trump’s associates. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Manafort was in debt (to the tune of $17 million) to pro-Russia interests when he joined the 2016 Trump campaign.
July 21: The Washington Post reports that Trump has asked his advisers about whether he has authority to pardon family members and himself in the Russia probe. Trump hires Anthony Scaramucci as the White House communications director—apparently angering Press Secretary Sean Spicer so much that he resigns in response, the New York Times reports.
July 22: Trump goes on an early-morning Twitter tirade. He notes that Obamacare is dead and Senate Democrats are obstructionists. He also applauds Donald Jr. for turning over his emails and calls Hillary Clinton crooked for deleting hers.
Scaramucci praises Breitbart while shunning major news outlets, saying the former “captured the spirit of what’s actually going on in the country.”
July 23: Trump tweets that Republicans “do very little to protect their President.”
July 24: In testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kushner defends his attendance at Donald Jr.’s meeting with the Russian attorney, saying he did not collude with Russia.
Meanwhile, Trump calls Sessions “beleaguered” on Twitter. Scaramucci threatens to “fire everybody” if White House leaks continue, according to CBS News.
July 25: The New York Times reports that Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators and discussed the Trump Jr. meeting. Trump tweets, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes.” The Associated Press reports that Trump has spoken to advisers about firing Sessions.
Sen. McCain, fresh from surgery and a brain cancer diagnosis, returns to Washington to cast a vote to debate the health care bill.