Trump Watch: Day 118 Wrap-Up

Good evening, Trump watchers. Whew. Pardon my French, but the last two days have been a shit storm of craziness. I’m not even sure what to include in tonight’s post, as it seems that every minute there’s a brand new breaking news alert relating to Trump. I’ll attempt to cover the most important stories of the past two days in tonight’s wrap-up:

— First, I’m certain most people have already heard about this, but on Tuesday the New York Times broke an exclusive story that in a memo written after an Oval Office meeting with Trump, former FBI Director James Comey said that Trump asked him to end the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his relationships with Russian officials. According to the New York Times, “The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.” According to Comey’s memo, which he shared with fellow FBI officials, Trump said to him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” This is a potential obstruction of justice on Trump’s part, which could be grounds for impeachment.

— Along with the story above, CNBC published an article pointing out an interesting bit of information that got a little lost in the New York Times’ original article: “Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.” Putting journalists in prison for doing their job? WOW.

— As I’m writing this post, a new breaking news alert just came in from the Washington Post. The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, just appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into the Trump campaign’s coordination with Russian officials to hack the U.S. election. The appointed individual is Robert Mueller, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013. In explaining the decision to appoint a special counsel and take the investigation out of the Justice Department’s hands, Rosenstein said, “What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.’’

—Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee invited James Comey to testify in both open and closed-door hearings in response to the aforementioned news about his memo stating that Trump asked him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation. As of right now, Comey has not publicly responded regarding whether he will testify.

— Trump’s press secretary said that Trump was interviewing four candidates for the vacant FBI Director role today. According to Reuters, the candidates were acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, and former senior FBI official Richard McFeely.

— Going back to Monday’s story about Trump leaking classified information to the Russian ambassador in a White House meeting, today Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to provide a transcript of the meeting. According to CNN, this entire issue has sent the White House “into a tailspin”. The Senate Intelligence Committee has demanded to receive a briefing on what was said during the meeting, and Putin’s offer to release a transcript has turned up the heat on the Trump administration to provide their own transcript of the meeting. Stay tuned.

—Not to be lost in all of this other Trump news, it’s important to point out that a nearly complete version of Trump’s first full education budget was obtained by the Washington Post. The Post reported that Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s budget would cut funding for college work-study programs in half, it would bring an end to public service student loan forgiveness, and $10.6 billion would be cut from federal education initiatives, such as mental health and advanced coursework services. It would drastically cut funding to public schools, and the article reported that schools in high-poverty areas would receive even less funding than they have in the past. Funding for after school programs would be eliminated entirely, as would funding for teacher training, a program that provides child care for low-income parents who are in college, the arts education program, programs that target Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, two programs for international education and foreign language programs, and Special Olympics education programs. I repeat, Trump and DeVos’s budget eliminates those programs ENTIRELY. The budget is expected to be made public on May 23.

— In the final story of today’s wrap-up, Reuters reported that U.S. immigration arrests are up 40% under the Trump administration. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has made 41,318 arrests since Trump took office, largely because of the executive orders Trump put in place that allow for broader provisions of who can be targeted for immigration violations. Of those arrested since Trump took office, over one-third have no criminal convictions.

I’ll be back with another wrap-up on Friday evening, though I will warn you that I have an evening graduation ceremony to attend that night, so the wrap-up may come a bit later than usual.