TrumpWatch, Day 232: Mueller to Interview 6 White House Aides in Russia Inquiry

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Donald Trump with strategic communications director Hope Hicks, who will likely be questioned in Trump-Russia inquiry

Reports of focus on whether Donald Trump obstructed justice by dictating son’s false statement over meeting with Kremlin-linked envoys in June 2016


Developments on Day 232 of the Trump Administration:

The High Cost of Ending the “Dreamers” Program
Podcast: What Now with North Korea?

Mueller Gives White House Names of 6 Current and Former Advisors

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has notified the White House that his team will probably interview six current and former senior aides of Donald Trump, as the Trump-Russia investigation expands.

The aides include Trump’s trusted advisor Hope Hicks, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and White House counsel Don McGahn.

Each of the six was privy to internal discussions and documents that Mueller is considering, including Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey in early May to limit the Russia inquiry and the White House response to revelations of the talks in December 2016 between Michael Flynn — soon to become National Security Advisor — and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

However, speculation on Friday centered on the drafting on July 8 of Donald J. Trump’s initial, false statement over a June 2016 meeting with three Kremlin-linked envoys in Trump Tower.

Trump Jr. admitted on Thursday, in answers to staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the discussion was arranged over a Russian offer of material damaging Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. That contradicted Trump Jr.’s statement in July that the meeting was over “adoptions”.

Trump Jr. said on Thursday that his father had nothing to do with the false statement, but first-hand sources have told media outlets that Trump Sr. dictated the draft. If so, that could constitute obstruction of justice.

See TrumpWatch, Day 231: Trump Jr. Admits Lying, Russian Meeting Was About “Anti-Clinton Material”

Mueller has also notified the White House that he will probably seek to question one of McGahn’s deputies, James Burnham, and Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman who works with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“People familiar with Mueller’s inquiry” said they expect the Special Council will pursue additional interviews, possibly including Kushner.

On Friday, Hicks — a former model who is reportedly a close confidante of Trump — hired attorney Robert Trout, according to “multiple sources”.

Sources have told The Daily Beast that efforts are underway to organize a legal defense fund for White House staffers, with bills for lawyers estimated at $500 to $1000 per hour.

Before holding the interviews, Mueller and his investigators will review documents, including those which the White House has been working to turn over for the past three weeks.


Trump Signs Deal with Democrats into Law

Donald Trump seals his sudden deal with Democratic legislators, signing a measure tying emergency funding for hurricane relief with a lifting of the debt ceiling and emergency funding to keep the Federal Government open until December 2015.

On Wednesday, Trump surprised Republican Congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in a White House meeting by abruptly accepting the proposals of Senate and House Minority leaders Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Trump also backed away from his Adminsitration’s suspension on Tuesday of the Dreamers program for young undocumented immigrants, calling on Congress to pass legislation for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

See TrumpWatch, Day 230: Trump Deal with Democrats to Keep Government Open

The House of Representatives confirmed the hurricane relief bill 316-90 earlier Friday. All 90 No votes were from Republicans, who had just come out of a meeting with top Administration officials urging them to support the package.

Those present at the meeting said Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin was booed as he made his appeal to the GOP legislators, although one Congressman said the booing was “good-natured”.

Representative Dave Brat of Virginia said of Mnuchin’s presentation:

It was intellectually close to dishonest in that he said, “I understand you on the debt, I understand you on this, I feel your pain, but you’ve got to bail out the Treasury bill.”

Everyone’s moaning and groaning, like “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

The Senate passed the legislation Thursday.

A White House official said:

The President is pleased Congress acted quickly. This bill will also provide funding for any necessary relief following Hurricane Irma. By ensuring government funding for the next three months, it gives Americans the certainty they deserve and we look forward to finding a permanent solution in the months to come.

Inderjeet Parmar, of City University London and EA’s forthcoming partner The Trump Project, explains, “Up to now [Trump] hasn’t displayed a great deal of loyalty…to the Republican Party in Congress, so this doesn’t necessarily come as a major shock. I think what it shows is that Trump is willing to work with anybody that he can use to save his Presidency.”

Conservatives criticize ‘cave in’ to Democrats over debt deal from CNBC.


Trump Freezing Out Top Economic Advisor Cohn

Donald Trump is freezing out his National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, after Cohn effectively criticized Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacist movements following violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in mid-August

At the bottom of a New York Times story on how Chief of Staff John Kelly is trying to enforce discipline in this White House is the revelation that Kelly has failed to shield Cohn “from Mr. Trump’s continuing wrath”.

Kelly made a point last week of throwing his arm around Mr. Cohn in solidarity, in full view of the news media, on the White House South Lawn.

However, Trump is “refusing to make eye contact with Cohn when his advisor greets him”. At a Thursday meeting on infrastructure at the White House with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and members of Congress from New York and New Jersey, Kelly said Cohn would lead the meeting =– but Trump “virtually ignored him”.

In an interview with Britain’s Financial Times, almost two weeks after Charlottesville, Cohn hit back at Trump’s insistence of blaming “many sides”: “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”

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