Eye on 45

A flyover of the news out of the White House and Congress

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen

In the last installment of Eye on 45, back in April, we learned that Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had lost his top-secret security clearance; Stephanie Clifford (aka porn star Stormy Daniels) had filed a civil lawsuit against the president; and the FBI had ransacked the office, home and hotel room of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney. Cohen, we also learned, had only two clients aside from POTUS: One of them was Elliott Broidy, the former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has been embroiled in a scandal involving a pregnant former Playboy model. The other: Fox News talking head Sean Hannity. Here’s just a glimpse into the news from the past couple of months.

April 19: Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani—as well as two other former federal prosecutors—joins the president’s legal team. The move comes a month after John Dowd, Trump’s principal attorney related to the Russia probe, resigned from that post, reportedly after Trump disagreed with advice that he steer clear of being interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

April 20: The Democratic National Committee files a civil lawsuit against WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign and Russia, charging the three conspired to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign and aid Trump’s campaign in an effort to influence the 2016 general election, reports The Washington Post.

April 23: Records for Trump’s visit to Russia in 2013 for the Miss Universe Pageant indicate he spent the night in Moscow, according to records obtained by Bloomberg. The problem: Trump twice told former FBI Director James Comey that he had not—a move to counter scandalous reports about what occurred during that trip that could make him vulnerable to coercion.

April 24: The Trump administration’s rationale for ending the Obama-era Homeland Security policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) does not pass legal muster, a judge ruled, reports Politico. U.S. District Court Judge John Bates was the third federal judge to reject the premise that ending DACA would “head off a lawsuit threatened by conservative state attorneys general who managed to block an expansion of the program under President Barack Obama.”

April 26: The Hill reports that the president, after denying that he knew anything about the hush money paid to Daniels, acknowledged that Cohen represented him on “this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

April 30: ABC News reports that the Trump campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal expenses for Cohen—a move that likely will trigger an investigation into violations of campaign finance laws, as that pot of money cannot go to personal expenses.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on Mueller’s list of questions for the president. There are at least four dozen designed to “learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself.”

May 1: Trump becomes unhinged on Twitter following the Times’ story: “So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were ‘leaked’ to the media. No questions on Collusion,” he writes. “Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!”

Interestingly, the same day, a former assistant in Mueller’s office said he believed, based on grammatical errors in the questions, that the source of the leak is actually Trump’s team.

May 3: Giuliani tells Hannity of Fox News that the president repaid Cohen for the $130,000 in hush money transferred to Daniels. This occurred in a series of payments, Giuliani said, though the president “didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know.”

The same day, multiple media outlets note that Giuliani’s interview directly contradicts recent statements by Trump, who told reporters he did not know about Cohen’s payment to Daniels. Additionally, Giuliani contradicted POTUS on the reason for firing Comey. Giuliani said it was because Comey would not “say that [Trump] wasn’t a target of the investigation.” Conversely, Trump’s aides have given multiple explanations, including that Comey botched an investigation into Hillary Clinton having used a private email server.

May 7: Trump calls on Congress to cut $15 billion in approved spending, half of which was earmarked for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which pays for health care costs for children from low-income families, reports The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Politico reports a new policy at the Department of Homeland Security that would refer “100 percent of illegal southwest border crossings” to the Department of Justice and include separating families.

May 8: The president announces he’s pulling out of a nuclear deal the Obama administration and key U.S. allies reached with Iran.

May 9: The Washington Post reports that Cohen was a consultant for a company with Russian ties that, among other things, registered multiple alternative-right-themed domain names during the 2016 election.

After months of rhetoric, the president announces via Twitter that a proposed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un will take place in June.

May 10: Trump attorney Cohen was retained by several major corporations shortly after Trump entered the White House. Among the companies is AT&T, which paid him a reported $600,000 for guidance on a proposed merger with Time Warner, a move Trump has criticized, reports The Washington Post.

May 22: During an interview with 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl, Trump admitted off-camera to lambasting the media in order to discredit reporters and ensure the public won’t believe unflattering stories about him and his administration, reports Yahoo Finance.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that Cohen’s former business partner has reached a plea deal with prosecutors and is willing to cooperate with an investigation into tax fraud. The question is what exactly he will reveal to authorities about Cohen.

May 24: Just weeks after the announcement of a nuclear summit between the U.S. and North Korea, Trump cancels the planned meeting. In a letter to Kim, he cites the country’s “tremendous anger and open hostility,” a reference to a statement in which Vice President Pence was referred to as a “political dummy.”

June 1: During his 497 days in office, the president has made more than 3,200 “false or misleading claims,” reports The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

June 4: Giuliani told reporters that Trump “probably does” have the power to pardon himself, though “he has no intention” of doing so, reports the Post. The discussion regarding pardons follows revelations that the president’s attorneys have concluded that POTUS “could not have obstructed an FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election because, as president, he has total control over all federal investigations.” That’s according to a memo they sent to Mueller. It also argues that Trump cannot be forced to testify.

Meanwhile, Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign manager, has been accused of witness tampering in relation to his indictment on myriad charges—from money laundering to tax fraud.

June 5: Russian President Vladimir Putin brags during a TV interview that he and Trump “regularly talk over the phone.”