Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
Donald Trump Jr., White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort are expected to speak with Senate committees next week as part of their ongoing investigation into Trump-Russia collusion, with Kushner down for a private interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday and Trump Jr. and Manafort appearing in an open hearing Wednesday, Rebecca Ballhaus reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Kushner is prepared to “provide whatever information he has on the investigations to Congress” and “appreciates the opportunity to assist in putting this matter to rest,” his attorney said yesterday, a person close to Kushner telling the Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian and Ashley Parker that he is expected to answer the committee’s questions Monday and not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Paul Manafort has as much as $17 million in debt to pro-Russia interests before he signed on as now-President Trump’s campaign manager in March last year, according to newly revealed financial records filed in Cyprus where Manafort was keeping bank accounts, Mike McIntire reports at the New York Times.
Top aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher Paul Behrends was pushed out of his role as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that Rohrbacher chairs after reports of his relationships with pro-Russia lobbyists emerged in the press, a spokesperson confirming that he no longer worked at the committee yesterday evening. Rosie Gray reports at the Atlantic.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sought to reassure American citizens that special counsel Robert Mueller was conducting his investigation into Trump-Russia collusion with some degree of independence from the Justice Department yet with the cooperation he required in an interview with Fox News that aired yesterday, saying that he had been asked for an update on the investigation and that he was “not doing any micromanagement” of the probe, Matt Zapotosky reports at the Washington Post.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should never have recused himself” and if he was going to he “should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.” President Trump harshly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Trump-Russia investigation in an interview with the New York Times’ Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman yesterday.
Special counsel Robert Mueller was warned not to investigate the Trump family finances beyond the scope of his investigation into potential Trump administration-Russia ties by the president in his New York Times interview yesterday, Jacqueline Thomsen reports at the Hill.
Trump’s statements that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should not be overseeing the Russia probe because of his involvement in the firing of former F.B.I. director James Comey and because he may be a closet liberal because he’s from Baltimore “surprised” a senior official interviewed by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein, Josh Dawsey and Darren Samuelsohn.
Trump’s public blasting of Sessions suggest he had hoped the Attorney General would play a part in managing an investigation he has consistently referred to as a “witch hunt.” Abby Phillip and Sari Horwitz at the Washington Post evaluate the Trump interview in which he spared virtually no one in contact with the Russia investigation and stated that he believed that former F.B.I. director James Comey meant to use an unsubstantiated dossier of derogatory information about Trump as leverage against him.
Trump would have seen Session’s recusal coming if he’d listened to anything the Attorney General said publicly about how he would handle a Russia investigation involving the president, and while he did not say explicitly that he would recuse himself, he did explain that he would seek legal counsel to avoid the conflict of interest of serving on the Trump campaign followed by the Trump administration, and that’s what he did. Amber Phillips writes at the Washington Post.
It is very possible that Trump’s undoing isn’t direct involvement of Russian election interference but obstruction of justice to protect those close to him for their role in the Russia scandal. James Robenalt takes a lesson from Watergate at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
SECRET TRUMP-PUTIN MEETING
President Trump discussed adoption with Russian President Putin during their previously undisclosed hourlong chat during the G20 summit earlier this month, Trump told the New York Times, adding that he was unaware that his son had discussed the same subject during a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya last June, Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.
Trump and Putin did not have a “secret meeting” at the G20 summit but they did chat informally over dinner, the Kremlin said today, Reuters reporting.
Speculation that the U.S. could return two diplomatic compounds seized from Russia by the former administration has been reignited by the private Trump-Putin meeting, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.) saying that “knowing the way Mr. Trump conducts policy” he was “greatly concerned” following the meeting. The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams reports.
It is the deeply troubling and unresolved questions about President Trump’s relationship with Russia rather than the fact that he impulsively sought out Putin for a private chat at a G20 summit dinner that are the real problems and which sensationalize contacts that might otherwise be considered unremarkable, observes the Washington Post editorial board.
The Trump administration has ended the covert C.I.A. mission supporting Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, Trump making the decision more than a month ago after discussion with C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, according to a U.S. official, Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous reveal at the Washington Post. Continue Reading »