Eye on 45
A flyover of the news out of the White House and Congress
In the last installment of Eye on 45 back in mid-February, we learned that President Trump’s White House attorneys had advised him to not be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller; POTUS’ personal attorney, Michael Cohen, told The New York Times that he’d spent $130,000 of his own money on a confidentiality deal with porn star Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with Trump); and the Department of Justice announced the indictment of 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 general election, a narrative the president had insisted was “fake news.” Here are the highlights of the past two months:
Feb. 21: A Russia-based billionaire’s son-in-law becomes the fourth person to plead guilty in Mueller’s probe, reports The New York Times. Alex van der Zwaan—a Dutch attorney—admitted he lied to federal investigators about his contacts with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates. He also reportedly erased records sought by the special counsel.
Feb. 22: The Washington Post reports that Gates and Paul Manafort, Trump’s one-time presidential campaign manager, were both indicted on new charges involving financial fraud. Both were already facing money laundering charges.
Feb. 23: Politico reports that Gates pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiracy, including an effort to secret millions of dollars he and Manafort were given for lobbying work centered around Ukraine.
Feb. 27: Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner lost his access to top-secret intelligence, reports Politico.
March 2: The Intercept reports that, shortly after Trump entered the White House, Kushner sought a massive loan directly from Qatar’s minister. The money is needed to stabilize Kushner Companies’ investment in a Manhattan property the family is in jeopardy of losing. A deal was not forthcoming, and, a month later, Kushner was involved in a “diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar,” as the publication put it.
March 4: The New York Times reports that the State Department had not spent a single cent of the $120 million allocated to the agency to safeguard U.S. elections from foreign interference.
March 6: Clifford filed a civil lawsuit against the president, alleging the confidentiality agreement she signed is invalid since Trump never signed it, reports NBC News.
March 7: The Washington Post reports that Mueller has evidence that Trump ally Erik Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of the controversial private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official ahead of the president’s inauguration to establish a “back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin.”
March 8: The president authorizes the tariffs on imported aluminum and steel—with exceptions for neighboring Canada and Mexico.
Trump agreed to meet with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un following an invitation to negotiate over its nuclear weapons program, reports The New York Times.
March 9: NBC News reports that Trump attorney Cohen used his Trump Organization email address to set up the transfer of the alleged hush-money payment to Clifford.
March 13: The New York Times reports that the president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and that he learned of his dismissal from a tweet by Trump. His ouster came a few hours after Tillerson charged that Russia was responsible for the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Kremlin spy and his daughter in the UK.
March 15: Mueller subpoenas the Trump Organization directly, the first time the special counsel has sought records from the president’s private business operations.
The same day, The New York Times reports that the Trump administration for the first time imposed sanctions targeting Russian organizations that either interfered with U.S. elections or hacked into the computer networks of American power plants—both of which occurred in 2016, U.S. security experts say.
March 17: The president via Twitter ramps up his rhetoric about Russian collusion being “fake news” and a “witch hunt,” specifically attacking former FBI Director James Comey, fueling reports that he’s set on getting Mueller fired to end the probe.
March 20: Trump phoned Putin to congratulate him on his re-election despite his national security advisers explicitly advising him against such a move, reports The New York Times.
March 22: The Times reports that John Dowd, Trump’s principal attorney related to the Russia probe, resigned from that post. His departure follows reports Trump disagreed with his advice to steer clear of a sit-down with the special counsel. The same day, the president told reporters he wants to talk to Mueller.
The same day, Politico reports that Trump sacked Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. In a tweet, POTUS announced UN Ambassador John Bolton would replace him.
April 5: While boarding Air Force One, Trump tells reporters he was not aware of the payment Cohen made to Clifford.
April 9: The FBI raids Cohen’s office, home and hotel room in search of records related to business ventures and payments made to two women who say they had an affair with the president. Trump’s response the next day: that the subpoenas were “an attack on our country.”
April 13: Following tweets by Trump warning Russia of potential missile strikes in Syria, the U.S. and two European allies launch an attack on a research facility believed to be the creator of chemical weapons that killed dozens in Damascus, allegedly at the order of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
April 16: An attorney for Cohen revealed under court order that Fox News’ Sean Hannity was one of only three clients of the embattled Trump lawyer over the past couple of years. According to Cohen’s counsel, Hannity had sought to keep his identity private. Hannity, a strident defender of the president and ever critical of the Russia investigation, has interviewed Cohen repeatedly on his TV program without disclosing their professional relationship.