‘A Witch Hunt’

Friday, May 19, 2017Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 8.10.10 AM

Good Friday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • President Trump declared angrily on Thursday that he was the victim of a witch hunt, and all but contradicted his deputy attorney general on the firing of the F.B.I. director, in an extensive denial of any collusion between his campaign and Russia.

  • James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, described being dismayed by Mr. Trump’s attempts to build a personal relationship with him amid the Russia investigation. A friend of Mr. Comey’s said that he saw Mr. Trump’s behavior in a “more menacing light” and decided to speak out.

  • The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, said he knew the decision to fire Mr. Comey was made before he wrote a justification.

  • Several White House advisers and personal associates of Mr. Trump have urged him to hire an experienced outside lawyer to help him deal with issues arising from the controversy over whether his campaign had ties to Russia, according to several people briefed on the conversations.

  • Jared Kushner called the head of Lockheed Martin while he met with Saudi officials, showing Mr. Trump’s eagerness to seal a $110 billion arms deal before his first foreign trip.
  • Saudi Arabia is seeking a reset in relations after the Obama years, hoping to emphasize common goals in business, counterterrorism and confronting Iran.
  • Even as Attorney General Jeff Sessions talks about getting tough, more than 30 states, including Texas, have moved to curb incarceration rates and find alternatives to prisons, saying they have saved money while crime has stayed low.
  • Roger E. Ailes, who shaped the images that helped elect three Republican presidents and then became a dominant force in conservative politics at the helm of Fox News until he was forced out last year in a sexual harassment scandal, died on Thursday.
  • As opponents of the president whisper about the idea of impeachment, Vice President Mike Pence has emerged as a prime target — though Mr. Pence dismisses any talk of taking over.

— The First Draft Team
On Washington

Cloud of Special Investigation Could Linger Over Trump’s Presidency

By CARL HULSE
Owen Roberts, left, and Atlee Pomerene, special prosecutors appointed by President Calvin Coolidge in the Teapot Dome scandal, in 1924.

Owen Roberts, left, and Atlee Pomerene, special prosecutors appointed by President Calvin Coolidge in the Teapot Dome scandal, in 1924. via Library of Congress

Nothing says serious business in Washington like the term special counsel.
It resonates solemnly through the capital and inspires grave talk, including the possibility of significant wrongdoing at the highest levels with the potential of historic consequences.
The implied gravity of the term, freighted with history, was a chief reason Democrats were so eager for a special prosecutor to investigate any connection between Russia and the Trump campaign, and a chief reason Republicans were so leery of an appointment. Both sides knew the naming of a special counsel would elevate questions about Russian meddling in the election and related matters to an entirely different level, from both a political and an investigatory standpoint.
Read more »
Mark Landler walks toward Air Force One in Bismarck, N.D., after covering President Barack Obama’s visit to an Indian reservation.

What White House Correspondents Pack

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR

For a nine-day presidential trip with stops in four countries, it’s a bit more complicated than packing for a family vacation.


Lieberman Is a Finalist for F.B.I. Director, Trump Says

Joseph I. Lieberman, the former Democratic senator and vice-presidential nominee, left the White House on Wednesday.By GLENN THRUSH AND MAGGIE HABERMAN

Aides are urging the president to take more time, and he appears increasingly likely to wait to announce his choice until he returns from a nine-day trip abroad.

Roger Ailes had an appreciation of the power of television, a sense of theatricality and a deep resentment of the “New York-Hollywood elitists.”
MEDIATOR

Roger Ailes: The Man Who Mined a Divided America

By JIM RUTENBERG

The Fox News creator made a fortune creating a cultural safe space for Americans pining for the way things were.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump at the White House in February.

Warm Start With Israel Cools as Trump Prepares Visit. What Happened?

By IAN FISHER

When President Trump was elected, the Israeli prime minister said his country had “no greater friend,” but the relationship has since become much more complicated.

Syrian residents on Thursday walked the war-torn streets in the town of Zabadani, near Syria’s western border with Lebanon.

U.S. Warplanes in Syria Hit Pro-Government Militia Convoy

By ERIC SCHMITT AND ANNE BARNARD

Pentagon officials said vehicles driving toward a base where American and British forces train Syria militias ignored a warning strike.

A truck heading for Windsor, Ontario, on the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit.

Trump Sends Nafta Renegotiation Notice to Congress

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS

The letter from Robert Lighthizer, the newly confirmed United States trade representative, was scant on details.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

In Video, Erdogan Watches as His Guards Clash With Protesters

By NICHOLAS FANDOS

From his Mercedes, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey watched his supporters and security forces launch a brutal attack on protesters outside his envoy’s residence.

Journalists near the White House on Monday, after reports that President Trump had revealed sensitive information to Russian diplomats.

Washington’s Trump Mania: ‘I Get Nervous When My Phone Buzzes’

By KATIE ROGERS

The people in Washington are in a strange existential place: unable to get enough of the news cycle, and yet on the verge of Trump-related fatigue.

At a news conference on Thursday, President Trump exaggerated the scale of his proposed tax cut and made a dubious comparison between Israel’s West Bank barrier and his proposed border wall.
FACT CHECK

Trump Is Contradictory on Comey and Misleading on Russia

By LINDA QIU

The president also made inaccurate statements about his proposed tax plan and border wall.

Workers putting a segment of a new fence into place on the United States side of the border with Mexico near Sunland Park, N.M., in March.

White House Reveals Details on Military and Wall Ahead of Budget Proposal

By ALAN RAPPEPORT

Of the $2.6 billion requested for border security, $1.6 billion would go toward materials to build the wall. Some of the increased funds sought for the military would go toward training and equipment.

Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, top row center, during a hearing on Thursday about overhauling the tax code.

Congress Opens Battle to Reshape Taxes, and the Goal Isn’t Perfection

By ALAN RAPPEPORT

House Republicans warned against letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and Democrats denounced “trickle down” policies and a lack of bipartisanship.

President Trump with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House in February. Mr. Trump’s first international trip as president, beginning Friday, will take him to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Italy and the Vatican.

Trump’s Business Ties to Middle East Precede Him

By STEVE EDER AND JESSE DRUCKER

As the president heads to the region during his overseas trip, critics worry that his family’s interests and diplomatic interests may become entangled.

President Trump met with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia at the White House in March.

Tips for Leaders Meeting Trump: Keep It Short and Give Him a Win

By PETER BAKER

Foreign officials and their consultants say some rules have emerged for engaging the president, who is unlike any American leader they have known.

With private guards on hand, Roger E. Ailes, at rear, two days before his ouster from Fox News amid a flood of sexual harassment accusations.

Roger Ailes’s Swift Exit From the Network He Built

By EMILY STEEL

Mr. Ailes was ousted barely two weeks after the former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s Project New Dawn is aimed at dismantling transnational gangs.
BIG CITY

Stepped-Up Raids, but Gang Violence Persists

By GINIA BELLAFANTE

The Trump administration says roundups by the immigration authorities are the best way to target gangs, but they haven’t stopped the killings.

House Democrats arrived for a news conference about President Trump and Russia on Wednesday.

Democratic Leaders Try to Slow Calls to Impeach Trump

By JONATHAN MARTIN AND ALEXANDER BURNS

Elected Democratic officials are counseling sobriety as they press ahead with investigations of the president, but activists want more: impeachment now.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
• Robert W. Merry in The American Conservative:
“The elites figure that if they can just get rid of Trump, the country can return to what they consider normalcy — the status quo ante, before the Trumpian challenge to their status as rulers of America.”
Launched by Patrick J. Buchanan, in many ways The American Conservative reflects the distinct political ideology of the current administration in its critique of neoconservatism. Here you’ll find writers supportive of military isolationism, and skeptical of unfettered free trade and immigration. Robert W. Merry, the publication’s editor, responds to the suggestion of impeachment (by both Democrats and never-Trump conservatives) with a warning: Removing the president will not solve the intractable rift between America’s heartland and “the elites.”