With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: James Comey was not alone. Even Donald Trump’s own pick for director of national intelligence, former Republican Sen. Dan Coats, refused to comply with a request by the president to push back against the FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.
Trump also reached out to Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency. He pressed both men to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. Each saw the president’s entreaty as inappropriate.
The Post’s Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima broke this latest bombshell last night: “Current and former senior intelligence officials viewed Trump’s requests as an attempt by the president to tarnish the credibility of the agency leading the Russia investigation. A senior intelligence official said Trump’s goal was to ‘muddy the waters’ about the scope of the FBI probe … Senior intelligence officials also saw the March requests as a threat to the independence of U.S. spy agencies, which are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues. ‘The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation,’ a former senior intelligence official said of the request to Coats.”
This new scoop is hugely significant because it suggests a concerted, multi-front effort by the president and top White House staff to rein in an FBI investigation in the months before Trump fired Comey. You really should read Adam and Ellen’s full story, but here are three important nuggets:
1. There is a paper trail: “Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official.” This could wind up being a key evidence for special counsel Robert Mueller.
2. Trump staffers were enlisted: “In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser … The officials said the White House appeared uncertain about its power to influence the FBI. ‘Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?’ one official said of the line of questioning from the White House.”
3. “Current and former officials said that Trump either lacks an understanding of the FBI’s role as an independent law enforcement agency or does not care about maintaining such boundaries. Trump’s effort to use the director of national intelligence and the NSA director to dispute Comey’s statement and to say there was no evidence of collusion echoes President Richard Nixon’s ‘unsuccessful efforts to use the CIA to shut down the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate break-in on national security grounds,’ said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel at the CIA. Smith called Trump’s actions ‘an appalling abuse of power.’”
Reaction from a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee:
– Trump is moving rapidly toward assembling a team of outside lawyers to help him navigate the expanding investigations into his campaign and Russian election interference. Robert Costa and Ashley Parker report on the list of finalists being considered: “That search process, in which Trump has been personally involved, is expected to yield a formal legal unit in the coming days, made up of lawyers from several firms who would work together to guide Trump as he responds both to the ongoing federal probe and the congressional investigations.”
Attorneys who have spoken to the White House and are seen as the finalists include Marc Kasowitz, Robert Giuffra Jr., Reid Weingarten, and Ted Olson: “Kasowitz, who has known Trump for decades, is expected to take a leading role. A partner at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in New York, Kasowitz has represented Trump in numerous cases, including on his divorce records, real estate transactions and allegations of fraud at Trump University … Giuffra, Olson and Weingarten have already spoken with senior administration officials about the team.”
It is unclear how Trump will pay for his legal team, the cost of which cannot be covered by the federal government: “But campaign finance lawyers said Trump could probably draw funds from his reelection committee to cover legal expenses related to the Russia inquiries, including money donated after he assumed office.”
A smart point in Bob and Ashley’s story: Outside experts note that the president’s decision to consider a team of lawyers from several different firms, rather than a single outside counselor, may exacerbate his existing problem of competing power factions within an already chaotic White House. “The one thing he’s trying to do is to manage some of the disorder that seems to have affected his legal position,” said a lawyer who worked in a previous administration. “And so to create a Tower of Babel within his legal team is sort of mirroring some of the problems that got him in trouble in the first place.”
– Layering: Trump is also looking to hire former campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie to lead a separate “crisis management operation,” as he seeks to wall off the scandals threatening to derail his agenda. Trump personally reached out to those aides to sound them out about working with the administration as “crisis managers,” Politico reports, and both men were spotted in the West Wing last week. It reflects how little confidence he has in his pre-existing press shop.
THE SPECIAL COUNSEL GETS TO WORK:
– Robert Mueller has been briefed on the contents of some of Comey’s memos, which he created to document his private meetings with Trump. CNN’s Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz report: “Additionally, he has already visited FBI headquarters, where he met with the counterintelligence agents who have been working on the case since last July … One source added that part of Mueller’s investigation is expected to focus on obstruction of justice. In that case, Comey would be a witness and Mueller will likely interview him as part of the probe…
“Potentially complicating that effort is Comey’s acceptance to testify on Capitol Hill after Memorial Day. The source says Comey likely will be limited with what he will be able to say now that the Russia probe is in the hands of Mueller. ‘There’s no way in the world Mueller wants his witness testifying,’ the source said. ‘He wants to question him before anyone else does but before that he’ll have to go through tons of documents.’ That means there will likely be a lot of negotiating happening in the early stages of the investigation particularly when it comes to congressional inquiries on the same material …”
– House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz postponed a planned Wednesday hearing because Comey told him he wants to speak with Mueller first.
CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS?
– Flynn’s refusal to comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s subpoena puts the ball in Richard Burr’s court. “Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee must now meet to vote and decide whether to hold Flynn in contempt or accept his attempt to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination,” Karoun Demirjian reports. “The committee has demanded that Flynn provide it with a list of any contacts he had with Russian officials between June 16, 2015, and Jan. 20, 2017.” Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a joint statement that they are “disappointed” by Flynn’s decision and will “vigorously pursue General Flynn’s testimony and his production of any and all pertinent materials pursuant to the Committee’s authorities.” (One thing they could try to do: make Flynn appear before their committee to awkwardly plead the Fifth in front of television cameras.)
The Fifth Amendment protects you from making incriminatory comments about yourself — but it does not protect you from things you’ve said in the past. Philip Bump explains: “Documents are similarly a form of past behavior to which the Fifth Amendment doesn’t apply. … If the Senate Intel Committee were to hold him in contempt, the full Senate would be asked to weigh in on the matter and, if the Senate agreed to hold Flynn in contempt, the matter would be referred to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington for criminal charges. In other words, Flynn could end up being convicted of a crime for withholding the documents and face prison time — regardless of what the documents say.”
ANOTHER SHOE DROPS:
– The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, cited a previously undisclosed document to allege that Flynn “lied” to federal investigators about payments he received “directly” from Russia after appearing at a gala hosted by the state-owned media company RT. From Karoun: “Cummings cites the March 14, 2016, Report of Investigation indicating Flynn ‘told security clearance investigators that he was paid by ‘U.S. companies’ when he traveled to Moscow’ for that gala and told investigators that ‘he has not received any benefit from a foreign country.’ But payment vouchers and other documents showed that Russia had ‘directly’ paid for Flynn’s airfare, accommodations and other expenses, Cummings wrote, citing the investigators’ report.” Cummings stressed his view that Jason Chaffetz must issue subpoenas to various White House officials to learn what “top officials knew about General Flynn — and when they knew it.”
– Former Trump transition chairman Chris Christie said he “repeatedly” recommended that Trump not give a job to Michael Flynn. “If I were president-elect of the United States, I wouldn’t let General Flynn in the White House, let alone give him a job,” Christie told reporters Monday in Trenton, per John Wagner. While he declined to go into specifics – noting that some information was classified – the New Jersey governor said Flynn was “not my cup of tea” and that the two “didn’t see eye-to-eye.” “I didn’t think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration,” Christie continued. “And I made that very clear to candidate Trump, and I made it very clear to President-elect Trump.”
We presume Mueller will eventually want to talk with Christie about these conversations: What did Christie know about Flynn that he cannot say right now because it remains classified? What exactly did he tell Trump? How did Trump respond? Did Christie’s concerns about Flynn play a role in Trump ousting him as head of the transition team?
– Nikki Haley, who at only 45 years old has her own political future to think about salvaging, is putting a little more distance between herself and Trump. The U.N. ambassador said on NBC’s “Today” show that she is working to reassure allies that the administration can be trusted with sensitive information after the president slipped code-word classified material to the Russians. More importantly, she also offered support for the work that Mueller will do as special counsel. “I think we absolutely need the investigation,” Haley said. “I think that all these questions need to be answered so that the administration can get back to work.” (Trump calls it “a witch hunt.”)
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
– A lone suicide bomber blew himself up at a pop concert filled with teenagers in Manchester, England, killing 22 and injuring 59 more in an apparent effort to harm as many young people as possible. Griff Witte and Karla Adam report: “British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was ‘now beyond doubt’ that it was a ‘callous, terrorist attack.’ ‘This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,’ she said, speaking outside of Downing Street. … She called it among the worst terrorist incidents in Britain and ‘the worst ever to hit the north of England.’ Authorities believe they know the identity of the assailant, she added, ‘but at this stage of their investigations, we cannot confirm his name.’”
- ISIS claimed responsibility, but authorities are still trying to determine if the suicide bomber acted alone or was part of a larger network.
- The Greater Manchester Police said that they arrested a 23-year-old man in south Manchester in connection with the attack, as hundreds of police swarmed through the city in the aftermath of the blast.
– Well into Tuesday morning, fathers and mothers who had lost contact with their children posted desperate pleas for information on social media using the hashtag #ManchesterMissing.
– Trump said that the concertgoers were murdered by “evil losers”: “So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life,” he said in the Middle East. “I won’t call them ‘monsters,’ because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them, from now on, losers, because that’s what they are. They’re losers. And we’ll have more of them. But they’re losers; just remember that.” (J. Freedom du Lac and Jennifer Hassan)
– Amid the terror and chaos that gripped Manchester, many residents took to social media to offer aid to those affected by the deadly blast. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “They came offering rooms and rides, food and drink. They came by [Twitter]— so often a site of anonymous derision — as a tool of collective uplift. The messages, some of which gained thousands of retweets, offered a small glimmer of hope in an otherwise ghastly night of carnage, confusion and loss. And as fear and uncertainty yet again gripped Western Europe, the response from those closest to the violence suggested an unwillingness to be cowed by such strikes. ‘I have a sofa, floor, blankets and tea, 5 minutes from Arena for anyone in need,’ one user offered. ‘If you need a place to crash I live around the corner from Manchester Arena,’ another wrote. Several hotels in Manchester sheltered children — who made up a large share of concert-goers — as frantic parents sought to locate them. And taxis in the city’s center offered free rides through the night.”
– Musician Ariana Grande, who was not injured in the blast, expressed her sorrow in a tweet: “broken,” she wrote. “from the bottom of my heart, i am so sorry. i don’t have words.” TMZ reports that she has suspended the rest of her “Dangerous Woman” tour, which was next scheduled for a stop in London on Thursday night.
– THE ENERGY 202 launched this morning. Want to understand more about Trump’s new budget and how it will affect the environment and health care? Dino Grandoni debuts our latest newsletter with a smart breakdown of how the Trump budget singles out the EPA for the harshest cuts, and he tells you about the sinkhole that has formed outside of Mar-a-Lago. (Literally, this happened.) Read Dino’s newsletter here and then sign up here.
– And if you are not signed up, you really ought to be reading THE HEALTH 202. Paige Winfield Cunningham, who is incredibly plugged-in on health policy, writes this morning about how a lot experts thought Obamacare would make the Children’s Health Care Program obsolete. But it didn’t. And now CHIP comes in for big cuts under the Trump budget. (Keep reading for more of our team coverage on Trump’s budget…)
GET SMART FAST:
- Monica Lewinsky slams Fox News’ “culture of humiliation” under Roger Ailes – arguing that the network found its footing only when Ailes chose to cover her relationship with Bill Clinton “ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.” “Their dream was my nightmare,” she writes in a New York Times op-ed. “My character, my looks and my life were picked apart mercilessly … On Fox, it seemed, no rumor was too unsubstantiated, no innuendo too vile and no accusation too abhorrent.” On one occasion, she recalls, Fox asked its viewers to vote on whether she was an “average girl” or a “young tramp looking for thrills.”
- One-third of potential jurors in Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial said they have already formed an opinion about the guilt or innocence of the former comedian, underscoring the difficulty authorities face as they try to select neutral candidates to hear his case. The intense media coverage surrounding Cosby’s alleged sexual misdeeds was a recurrent theme in the questioning – and out of 100 potential jurors, just 14 said they had not heard anything about the allegations against Cosby. (Manuel Roig-Franzia)
- Just one small alcoholic drink a day significantly raises the risk of breast cancer, according to an expansive new study that published this morning. One daily drink heightens the risk by five percent among pre-menopausal women and nine percent in post-menopausal woman. (Laurie McGinley)
- Scientists have found that the pace of Earth’s sea level rise has nearly tripled since 1990. (Chris Mooney)
- A Mississippi lawmaker apologized after calling for the lynching of Louisiana leaders who supported the removal of Confederate monuments. Rep. Karl Oliver’s district includes the town of Money, Miss. — where a 14-year-old black boy, Emmett Till, was lynched by two white men in 1955. (Amy B Wang)
- A belligerent man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat was booted off a plane in Shanghai after he began picking fights with passengers and flight personnel – insisting he get a whole row to himself and even berating one woman as “Hillary.” As he was dragged off the plane, a crowd waiting in the terminal began to chant, “Lock him up!” (Avi Selk)
- Tomi Lahren, the conservative commentator who claimed she was fired from “The Blaze” for coming out as pro-choice, has landed a new job at a pro-Trump advocacy group. Great America Alliance said she will work in a communications role. (Samantha Schmidt)
- In Utah, disaffected Republicans and Democrats have joined forces to start a new, centrist political party. Hoping to break from the toxic political climate, the group announced its formation at the state capitol. (Deseret News)
- A veteran big game hunter died while leading a group of hunters in Zimbabwe, after an elephant, felled by gunfire, collapsed on top of him. His death comes just weeks after one of his best friends was killed by crocodiles nearby. (Derek Hawkins)
- The new fad for coffee lovers in Australia: the “Avolatte,” a latte served in a hollowed-out avocado. Owners of a popular coffee shop said it was invented as a joke. Then customers started regularly requesting the beverage. (Newsweek)
TRUMP’S FOREIGN TRIP:
– The president is currently en route to Rome.
– Earlier, he traveled to the West Bank to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, pledging that he would do “everything I can” to broker peace talks with Israelis, even as he confronted seemingly irreconcilable demands on both sides. Philip Rucker, Karen DeYoung and William Booth report from the scene: “Trump spoke beside [Abbas] after the two held a private meeting to discuss the now-stalled peace process and Trump’s vision for broad counterterrorism cooperation among the United States, Israel and the Muslim world. But while Trump spoke in generalities about the goal, Abbas laid out the specifics of Palestinian demands — which all have been supported by the Arabs and rejected by Israel through decades of unsuccessful peace negotiations shepherded by American presidents.”
– The president announced yesterday that he never told Russian diplomats during an Oval Office meeting that the classified information he was sharing with them had come from Israel – something he has never been accused of doing. Philip Rucker reports: Trump’s remarks came during a media appearance with Benjamin Netanyahu, after the Israeli prime minister was asked whether he had any concerns about intelligence cooperation with the United States. “The intelligence cooperation is terrific,” Netanyahu said. Trump then hushed the room so he could respond as well: “Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” he told reporters. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”
TRUMP’S BUDGET LANDS WITH A THUD:
– The administration proposes slashing federal spending by $3.6 trillion over 10 years, a historic contraction that would severely ratchet back spending across dozens of programs and could completely reshape government assistance to the poor. Damian Paletta and Robert Costa report: OMB director Mick Mulvaney said the spending plan is focused on “protecting taxpayer money” and cutting programs that are “ineffective” and encourage people not to work. He singled out SNAP — the modern version of food stamps — which has grown rapidly since the financial crisis and in 2016 had 44 million beneficiaries. “If you are on food stamps and you are able-bodied, we need you to go to work,” he said. “If you are on disability insurance … [and] you are not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work. We need everybody pulling in the same direction.”
– Trump’s cuts to SNAP will be felt most in regions of the country with chronically high rates of unemployment — from the rural Southeast to aging manufacturing towns to Indian reservations. Caitlin Dewey and Tracy Jan report: “People in those regions are temporarily exempt from national work requirements for the SNAP program, because there are not enough jobs there for everyone who wants one. But there is growing anticipation that the budget … would eliminate or curtail the unemployment-rate waivers. That means the federal government could cut off assistance to unemployed adults who live in areas where few jobs are available. While details remain sparse, Trump is expected to propose cutting as much as 25 percent of the program’s funding over 10 years, which would go far beyond past House Republican proposals — and require far more than axing SNAP’s unemployed adults.”
– Even some of the most conservative members of the House said the budget might cut too much, per Mike DeBonis:
- Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he was encouraged overall, but even he draws the line when it comes to slashing Meals on Wheels. “I’ve delivered meals to a lot of people that perhaps it’s their only hot meal of the day,” Meadows said. “And so I’m sure there’s going to be some give and take, but to throw out the entire budget just because you disagree with some of the principles would be inappropriate.”
- “There will be some concerns if we go too deep in some of these areas,” said Rep. Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, referring to the cuts to the children’s health-care program.
- Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) promised to push back on any proposed cuts to CHIP: “There is a bipartisan desire within the Finance Committee to ensure funding for CHIP is continued and services for vulnerable children is maintained,” spokeswoman Julia Lawless told Kelsey Snell. “Chairman Hatch will continue to work with members and the administration to find a viable path forward.”
– The EPA fares worse than any other federal agency, with Trump following through on his proposed 31 percent cut. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “The plan would eliminate several major regional programs, including ones aimed at restoring the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, as well as EPA’s lead risk-reduction program. It would slash funding for the Superfund cleanup program, which helps restore some of the nation’s most polluted sites, despite the fact that [Scott Pruitt] lists it as one of his priorities.”
– The Trump administration is seeking to sell off half of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which provides a cushion against global price shocks and supply disruptions. Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney report: “The administration said it expects the drawdown to reduce the federal deficit by $16.6 billion, part of a package of deficit reduction measures over the next 10 years. The proposal probably will run into sharp differences in Congress and among oil experts, most of whom say that the reserve should remain a buffer in an emergency. The sales would start at half a billion dollars in the next fiscal year and climb to $3.9 billion, for a total of $16 billion over the next decade.”
– Betsy DeVos says Trump will soon propose “the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation’s history.” Emma Brown reports: “Speaking in Indianapolis before a friendly audience of school voucher proponents, [the education secretary] laid out a moral case to dramatically transform American education — and improve young people’s prospects — by expanding school choice. Many education observers had expected her to lay out a specific policy proposal, such as a federal tax credit that would funnel public dollars toward scholarships to private and religious schools. But DeVos said nothing about tax credits or any other specific policy, saying only that Trump would propose something big — and that the administration would not force states to take part. ‘When it comes to education, no solution, not even ones we like, should be dictated or run from Washington, D.C.,’ she said. “If a state doesn’t want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part. They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it.’ She also said the administration would refrain from ‘bribing states with their own taxpayers’ money,’ a not-so-veiled reference to [Obama’s] initiative to offer billions of stimulus dollars to states that adopted his preferred education policies.”
– DHS Secretary John Kelly granted a six-month deportation reprieve to 58,000 Haitian immigrants who came to the U.S. after a devastating earthquake struck the country in 2010, saying Monday that the conditions in their homeland are not stable enough to force them to return. Maria Sacchetti reports: “Kelly said the Haitians, whose permission to stay in the United States was to end in July, may now stay until Jan. 22. He said he would monitor conditions in the Caribbean nation, but he added that the Haitian immigrants should prepare to return home next year. The announcement did not please advocates on either side of the immigration debate, [however], and foreshadowed the battles to come next year, when the Trump administration will decide the fate of about 263,000 people from El Salvador, whose temporary protected status expires in March. Protection for about 86,000 Hondurans is set to end in January. Many had hoped the administration would extend the Haitians’ protection for 18 to 24 months. Now, they face a potential deadline to pack up their lives and return to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.”
– Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered the government’s first official definition of “sanctuary cities,” acknowledging that Trump’s power to revoke their federal funding is more limited than he had claimed earlier. Sacchetti and Sari Horwitz report: “In a memo addressing grants issued by the [DOJ and the DHS], he said sanctuary cities are those that violate a federal law requiring local and state governments to share information with federal officials about immigrants’ citizenship or legal status. Any city or town that violates that federal statute could lose some Justice grant funding this year, Sessions said, as long as Congress had already spelled out those conditions before the government awarded the grants. Sessions’s memo does not require cities and towns to detain immigrants, they said, and will only apply to Department of Justice and Homeland Security grants. However, in his memo, Sessions warned that the administration and Congress in the future may seek to ‘tailor’ grants, or impose additional conditions related to immigration on the jurisdictions that seek funding. And under the language in the memo, the Justice Department could try to link the awarding of future grants to other factors.”
– A top German official warned the Trump administration that it risks causing “lasting damage” to relations with European allies if it abandons the Paris climate agreement. Sophie Yeo reports: “Shortly before Trump is due to join G-7 leaders for a summit in Sicily, Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, said in a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that the U.S. would face serious repercussions if it chooses to leave the landmark deal.” Many G-7 diplomats said they are optimistic they can persuade Trump against withdrawal: “We are exploring every way possible to communicate with the U.S. and to express our key interest for the U.S. to stay involved in the climate negotiation process,” one diplomat said. “There are many channels we are utilizing.”
– Wall Street has grown bearish on Trump’s economic agenda after another week of turmoil. Tory Newmyer reports: “Those seeking an economic lift from one-party Republican control of Washington in the form of a tax code rewrite and decreased financial regulations … are becoming increasingly skeptical. ‘With the distractions building in Washington, we’re becoming that much more convinced of the challenges to getting major policy implemented,’ said Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist for Bank of America, adding the bank hasn’t officially changed its forecast ‘because events are moving so quickly.’ Alerts bearing the president’s name are stopping traders in their tracks when they pop up on their Bloomberg terminals.”
Height Securities, which provides political research and analysis to investors, convened a call to walk clients through impeachment scenarios: “The investment community does not like the prospect of a president being booted out of office,” said one analyst. “But they see the Trump agenda going down in flames and a bit of a loose cannon in the White House, and thinking if we had Pence, who’s more vanilla and drama-free, it might be better for the market.”
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST WATCH:
– “The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies,” the New York Times’ Eric Lipton reports: “The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to [Walter Shaub], the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information. Mr. Shaub returned a scalding, 10-page response to the White House late Monday, unlike just about any correspondence in the history of the office, created after the Nixon Watergate scandal.”
- “O.G.E. declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive,” Shaub wrote in a letter he also sent to every federal agency ethics officer, six members of Congress who oversee government operations and the inspector generals from agencies governmentwide.
- Shaub, in the final year of a five-year term, said he has no intention of backing down: “It is an extraordinary thing,” he said of the White House request. “I have never seen anything like it.”
– “Amid complicated relations with U.S., Turkey hires longtime Trump lobbyist Brian Ballard,” by Politico’s Marc Caputo: “His longtime Florida lobbyist, Brian Ballard, has expanded his practice globally and just signed a $1.5 million contract with the government of Turkey, which will be represented by the firm’s new big hire, former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler. Ballard Partners’ Turkey contract, inked Friday, comes on the heels of two other international clients signed by the firm: A March 6 $900,000 contract with the Dominican Republic and an April 1 $240,000 contract with the Socialist Party of Albania, the ruling party in the Balkan nation. Wexler is new to lobbying and joined Ballard Partners in March. He’s still serving as president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, a Washington-based think tank devoted to Israeli-Palestinian relations.”
– Seth Meyers spoke to The Post’s Emily Yahr about the chaotic breaking-news cycle — a “production boot camp,” he calls it — and how his staff deals with covering a barrage of consequential news stories, sometimes, with just an hour to prepare:
- On major stories that break late in the day: “There’s this scramble, both on the writing side, where everybody’s now trying to come up with a joke that we feel is strong enough to go in the piece, but also more important, the production side, because they’re up against things like the limitations of actual time,” he said. “You have to build a graphic, you have to pull the quote, you have to find the clip, you have get it on cue cards … it’s sort of been a production boot camp since the campaign.”
- On how his staff has dealt with the exhausting pace: “They are not the kind of people who complain about things, that all of a sudden you realize they have a thousand-yard stare and you say, ‘Hey, are you okay?’” Meyers said of his employees. “So we basically add a staff member every time we see one just staring off into the distance.”
- On getting Paul Ryan – or any Republicans – on the show: “It’s very hard to get Republicans to come on shows right now who have not been critical of Trump,” Meyers said. “Because what Paul Ryan wants to talk about right now is health care, he wants to talk about tax cuts, and he doesn’t want to talk about Trump, he doesn’t want to defend Trump. But he knows if he came on a show like mine, he’d have to.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
There was a lot of social discussion about the highly classified info Trump gave to the Russians. From one of the reporters who broke the story:
Lots of guesses about the note Trump left in the Western Wall:
Melania found the visit moving:
So did Ivanka:
But, but, but:
This is funny:
When the Russian propaganda network RT attacked him, John McCain took it in stride:
Back in Washington:
Many people were disgusted that InfoWars got White House press credentials:
Chris Murphy represents Newtown, Conn., in the Senate:
Pretty much the whole Connecticut delegation felt this way:
Sandy Hook deniers have no place in a White House that values honesty or civility.
— Elizabeth Esty (@RepEsty) May 22, 2017
Reminder about Corsi:
Some historical humor:
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Confederate monuments:
This is now a thing:
And a snap of The Post’s David Fahrenthold and Executive Editor Marty Baron attending the Pulitzer luncheon:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
– New York Times, “No, Google’s Not a Bird: Bringing the Internet to Rural India,” by Ellen Barry: “The arrival of the internet in their lives is one of India’s most hopeful narratives. In the 70 years since independence, India’s government has done very little to connect Taradand … in central India, to the outside world: The first paved road appeared in 2006. There has never been a single telephone landline. Electricity is available to only half the houses. When [Babulal Singh] Neti was growing up, if someone in the village needed emergency medical care, farmers tied the patient to a wooden cot and carried him five miles through the forest to the nearest hospital … [But] since acquiring a smart phone, Mr. Neti couldn’t stop Googling things … [and] access to this knowledge so elated him that he decided to give up farming for good, taking a job with a nongovernmental organization whose goals include helping villagers produce and call up online content in their native languages. Those who work in development tend to speak of this moment as a civilizational breakthrough, of particular significance in a country aching to educate its children …”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Fox News Staffers ‘Embarrassed’ by Hannity’s Conspiracy Theory Crusade,” from The Daily Beast: “Fox News staffers are growing increasingly dismayed as network star Sean Hannity and others continue to promote the unfounded conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered last year for talking to WikiLeaks. The Daily Beast spoke to nearly a dozen reporters, pundits, and hosts inside Fox News who all conveyed the same sentiment: Hannity is ‘embarrassing’ the network, and the promotion of the Rich conspiracy theory is senselessly cruel to a grieving family. ‘ARE WE STILL AIRING THAT [expletive]?!’ one Fox News political reporter … messaged [after being] informed of recent coverage. Another news reporter said he is ‘befuddled’ that the network hasn’t intervened to decisively put an end to Hannity’s incessant support for, and coverage of, this particular conspiracy theory.’ ‘It’s just gross,’” one reporter added.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Private investigator accused of seeking Trump’s tax records through financial aid website,” from Emma Brown and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel: “A Louisiana private investigator tried to exploit a loophole in an online student financial aid tool to illegally obtain [Trump’s’ tax records during last year’s presidential campaign … Jordan Hamlett, 31, was unsuccessful in his attempts to get Trump’s tax information and has been charged with false impersonation of a Social Security number. The website Hamlett allegedly attempted to exploit allowed students filling out the [FAFSA] — the form that colleges and the government use to determine grants and loans — to upload tax information by submitting a Social Security number and other data. According to a federal indictment … Hamlett is accused of using a Social Security number that was not his. The number ended in four digits that hackers have claimed correspond to Trump’s.” Prosecutors said Hamlett “immediately volunteered that he had committed the crime,” and “even sounded proud of what he had done.”
Trump will participate in an arrival ceremony and bilateral meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, before the two issue joint remarks. Afterwards, Trump and Melania will participate in a wreath laying ceremony at Yad Vashem and visit the Israel Museum before traveling to Rome.
In Washington, Pence will attend the Senate Republican Policy Lunch.
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney will give an on camera briefing about the budget at 11 a.m. ET.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
– Another gray, potentially-rainy day ahead. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds continue their overextended stay today as temperatures manage to max out in the upper 60s to low 70s. Showers and periods of rain return by midday into the afternoon with potentially moderate to heavy downpours at times, especially south and east of the city. We can’t rule out a rumble of thunder, too. “
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
First lady Melania Trump appeared to brush the president’s hand away after he spoke in Tel Aviv:
Key moments from the Trump-Bibi presser:
Rachel Maddow talks to Stephen Colbert about why Reince Priebus and Steven Bannon came home from Saudi Arabia early:
Colbert joked about the “orbs and swords” that showed up on Trump’s foreign trip:
And he mocked Trump’s White House for promising lasting “PEACH” in the Middle East: