Eye on 45
A monthly rundown of news out of the White House and Congress
The most important news since the last installment of Eye on 45 relates to the continuing investigation into the allegations Trump’s election campaign colluded with Russia. The probe has heated up considerably, putting several members of the Trump camp in the hot seat.
Oct. 18: During a query before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey. He also refused to share with the panel his conversations with the president surrounding that decision.
Oct. 19: CIA Director Mike Pompeo made the false claim that the outcome of the presidential election wasn’t affected by Russian interference, reports The Washington Post.
According to a Marist poll, more than 58 percent of Americans believe Trump will go down in history as one of the nation’s worst presidents.
Oct. 24: The Washington Post reports that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign contributed funding to an investigation that led to a dossier containing not only allegations about Trump’s connections with Russia but other salacious claims (read: prostitutes).
The Daily Beast reports that a $300 million contract to rebuild hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico was awarded to a tiny Montana-based company called Whitefish Energy Holdings that had reported having a staff of only two full-time employees.
According to the report, the company’s chief financier is a Trump supporter who’d given his campaign and the Republican Committee tens of thousands of dollars during the 2016 election cycle. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that that the company’s CEO is friends with Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who grew up in White Fish, the tiny town for which the company is named.
The same day, The New York Times reports that Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in a move to overturn a rule that would allow Americans to join together in class-action lawsuits to go after financial institutions. That Obama-era measure was one of many established as a result of the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog group that formed following the economic meltdown of 2008 as a result of lax controls on Wall Street.
Oct. 27: The New York Times reports that the Russian lawyer who’d met with Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort during the presidential campaign has ties to one of the Kremlin’s top officials, Yuri Y. Chaika. The revelation runs counter to Natalia Veselnitskaya’s claims that she was meeting with the Trump associates purely as an independent, private citizen. She’d set up the meeting to discuss a memo that included allegations against the Democratic Party, and records show she’d discussed the same information with Chaika, according to the Times. Furthermore, Chaika’s office had given a document similar in nature to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Southern California-based Republican who’s known for his pro-Russia stances.
Oct. 29: Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority announces the cancellation of the contract with Whitefish Energy.
Oct. 30: The New York Times reports that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, announced charges against three of President Trump’s associates: Manafort (the embattled former campaign manager), Rick Gates (a former campaign adviser) and George Papadopoulos (a former foreign policy adviser) who secretly pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was cooperating with the investigation. To date, Papadopoulos’ plea is the strongest evidence of a coordinated effort between the Kremlin and Trump’s camp to get the now-president elected.
Oct. 31: Following revelations of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Trump goes into damage-control mode by downplaying the former foreign policy adviser’s role in his campaign: “Few people knew the young, low-level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, in written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, Facebook officials estimate that 126 million Americans likely were “exposed” on the social network to Russian-government propaganda designed to meddle in U.S. politics for just over two years beginning in June 2015, reports CNN.
Nov. 2: The GOP reveals its Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—a revision of the tax code Republicans have said benefits the middle class but detractors note is most beneficial to businesses, since it cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.
The New York Times reports that unsealed court documents undermine statements made by both Trump and Attorney General Sessions denying any knowledge of the Trump camp being in contact with Russians during the campaign. Documents reveal that Papadopoulos had pitched the idea of Trump meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, including during a meeting at which Sessions and Trump were present and Sessions reportedly shot down the idea.
Meanwhile, another former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, told CNN he had informed Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the 2016 campaign. Page said he had revealed that info to the House Intelligence Committee the previous day. The testimony further undermines Sessions’ stance that he was unaware of any contacts between Trump’s camp and the Kremlin, and in fact Sessions himself had testified thusly back in June during his confirmation hearing.
Nov. 6: Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Trump associates during the campaign, stated that Donald Trump Jr. told her his father, should he win the election, could re-examine a law targeting Russia that came as a result of the murder of “a tax accountant who accused the Kremlin of corruption,” reports Bloomberg. Veselnitskaya stated she met with the Trump advisers to lobby against the law and to present allegations of tax evasion by big Democrat donors.
Nov. 8: Politico reports that Page, the former Trump foreign policy adviser, during his testimony before the House Oversight Committee the week prior, said that he’d sought permission to travel to Russia from Corey Lewandowski, onetime Trump campaign chief. He also testified that he’d sought permission from Hope Hicks, current White House communications director. Lewandowski had previously said he had no knowledge of Page’s trip, but has since acknowledged he’d communicated with him about it and was clear that his visit should not be connected to the campaign.
Nov. 10: Republican senators began scrambling to distance the party from Roy Moore, the controversial Senate candidate from Alabama vying for the seat left vacant by Sessions’ promotion to attorney general. Moore has been accused of sexually harassing teenagers when he was in his 30s. One of the accusations comes from a woman who says he assaulted her while he was district attorney.
Nov. 13: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, among others, says he believes the women and called for Moore to step aside. However, the combative Moore continues to deny the allegations against him and pledges to stay in the race.