Trump Watch: Day 173 Wrap-Up

Good evening, Trump watchers. There are a LOT of important stories coming your way tonight. Without further ado, here is your Trump-related news for Wednesday, July 12, 2017:

— The details of Donald Trump, Jr.’s emails regarding a meeting with a Russian lawyer connected to the Russian government were revealed by both Trump Jr. himself as well as the New York Times. It’s quite peculiar that Trump Jr. released the email transcripts, as they are highly incriminating in the case against the Trump campaign colluding with Russia during the presidential election. Trump Jr.’s associate Rob Goldstone wrote that, “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Goldstone went on to say, “ This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”. Trump Jr. responded by saying, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” These emails show a few things. First, that Trump Jr. completely lied about his original story of why the meeting was held (he said “adoptions”, the emails clearly show that he was meeting the lawyer to try to get dirt on Hillary Clinton). Second, they also show that Trump Jr. lied last July when he said, “It’s disgusting; it’s so phony” in an interview on CNN about claims of the Russians trying to help his father win. He clearly knew the Russians were trying to help his father, and he was involved in those efforts, as were Paul Manafort (then campaign chairman) and Trump’s son-in-law and now White House adviser Jared Kushner, who also attended the meeting with the Russian lawyer. Kushner now faces additional scrutiny, as he works in the White House and did not disclose this meeting on his background check forms for security clearance. This article from Vox does a great job of explaining the significance of these emails (and it has photos of the actual email thread). This article from NPR annotated the emails to provide additional information/context for what is in them. Finally, this New York Times story has the latest on the chaos taking place in the White House over the story.

— Trump’s nominee to replace James Comey as the FBI Director, Christopher Wray, a 50-year-old former Justice Department lawyer, faced questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee today. In the hearing, Wray said he would be loyal to the Constitution and the law, and that he would “never allow the FBI’s work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice. Period.” He also said that he did not believe special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election was a witch hunt, and he said that he had “no reason to doubt the conclusions of the intelligence community” regarding the claim that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election. He was critical of James Comey for the press conference he gave just days before the election in which Comey said Hillary Clinton’s emails were being investigated again, saying that he couldn’t imagine a situation where he “would be giving a press conference on an uncharged individual, much less talking in detail about it.” Wray, however, is also a private practice attorney and represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in his “Bridgegate” scandal, and as recently as June 19, was still working for Christie after collecting over $2 million from New Jersey taxpayers as part of the Bridgegate case.

— Today Trump put pressure on Senate Republicans to pass their healthcare bill, saying that he will be “very angry” if they don’t, and that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must “pull it off”. McConnell is set to release the updated bill tomorrow. According to the Associated Press, the revised bill would “keep most of the initial Medicaid cuts and makes other changes aimed at nailing down support”. At least 50 of the 52 Republican Senators would need to vote in favor of the bill for it to pass. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are planning to use a Senate rule that limits what can be included in a bill to challenge the Republicans’ healthcare bill. Specifically, Democrats hope to challenge the bill’s provision to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, to disallow the Republicans’ plan from charging the elderly five times more than young people for health insurance, to take away the six-month waiting period for new insurance for people whose coverage lapses, and to block a provision that would federal tax credits from being used to to help pay premiums for insurance that included abortion coverage.

— Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is meeting with college administrators, rape survivors, and students accused of sexual assault tomorrow as she considers rolling back the Obama administration’s policies aimed at cracking down on campus sexual assault. Assault victims and their allies worry that the meetings are just for show, and that DeVos and the Trump administration have already made up their minds about rolling back the Obama-era policies, while those accused of sexual assault believe that the Obama policies have “led colleges to conduct biased investigations that label innocent students as rapists” according to the Washington Post. Assault survivors and advocates are expected to rally outside of the Department of Education during tomorrow’s meetings.

— Amidst Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and his efforts to roll back virtually all environmental regulations put in place by President Obama, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief, Scott Pruitt, (whom it should be noted sued the EPA 13 times before being placed in his current position), has called for a televised debate about climate change. Pruitt told a Reuters reporter, “There are lots of questions that have not been asked and answered (about climate change). Who better to do that than a group of scientists… getting together and having a robust discussion for all the world to see?” It was not clear which scientists Pruitt would choose for such a debate, but given the fact that he is a climate change denier, I can’t imagine he would put anyone credible on the panel. Stay tuned.

Politico reported today that Trump and his senior aide Stephen Miller have been working quietly alongside two Republican senators (Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia)to slash legal immigration in the U.S. The group is working towards a merit-based immigration system, similar to those in countries like Canada and Australia, in which visas would be granted based on a variety of factors such as an immigrant’s educational background, salary, age, etc. The plan would cut the number of legal immigrants entering the U.S. from about 1 million per year to approximately 500,000 per year. It is not yet known exactly when the bill will be introduced, but it is likely to be later this summer.

— Finally, Trump will visit Paris for France’s Bastille Day Celebration this Friday, which will also honor the United States’ 100-year anniversary of entering World War I to fight alongside France. According to the Washington Post, Trump was not originally planning on attending, but decided at the last minute that he would attend once he found out that the celebration will feature “U.S. and French troops marching through the historic streets near the Arc de Triomphe, fighter jets cutting through the skies above, and flags, horses and military equipment on display — the sort of spectacle that Trump wanted to stage at his own inauguration in January.”

That’s all for tonight! Stay tuned for the next update on Friday evening.