White House Says Trump Not Planning to Fire Mueller

After a weekend of combative statements by President Trump, lawyer Ty Cobb felt the need to issue this statement:

In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.

Mike Allen: “The White House strategy had been to cooperate with Mueller. So this is an effort to turn down the temperature after a weekend of increasingly personal provocations aimed at the special counsel.”

Trump Finally Feels He Can Say What He Wants

“For months, President Trump’s legal advisers implored him to avoid so much as mentioning the name of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, in his tweets, and to do nothing to provoke him or suggest his investigation is not proper,” the New York Times reports.

“Ignoring that advice over the weekend was the decision of a president who ultimately trusts only his own instincts, and now believes he has settled into the job enough to rely on them rather than the people who advise him.”

“A dozen people close to Mr. Trump or the White House, including current and former aides and longtime friends, described him as newly emboldened to say what he really feels and to ignore the cautions of those around him.”

New Hampshire Activity Sparks Talk of Trump Challenge

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) received a standing ovation from a crowd of business leaders and political junkies in New Hampshire on Friday after decrying the “degradation of the United States and her values” by the current occupant of the White House, the Washington Post reports.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who ran for the GOP nomination in 2016, will return to the nation’s first primary state early next month for a “fireside chat” at a college.

“And on Monday, President Trump — whose New Hampshire primary win two years ago set him on a course for the presidency — is slated to make an appearance in the state for the first time since 2016.”

Trump Had White House Staff Sign NDAs

Ruth Marcus: “In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation. Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.”

”Moreover, said the source, this confidentiality pledge would extend not only after an aide’s White House service but also beyond the Trump presidency.“

Scott Pruitt Eyes Higher Office

New York Times: “In the past year, Mr. Pruitt has emerged as a hero to President Trump’s supporters for his hand in rolling back environmental rules at an agency long disliked by farmers, the fossil fuel industry and the far right. And he has occasionally shocked his employees by criticizing the very agency he heads.”

“Now, people close to Mr. Pruitt say he is using his perch as Mr. Trump’s deregulatory czar to position himself for further political prominence — starting with a run for office in his home state of Oklahoma. He is widely viewed as a future candidate for senator or governor there, and Mr. Pruitt has made it known that if the president replaces his beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, he would be ready to step into the job.”

“Behind the scenes, Mr. Pruitt has spent time with major political donors. Last year he met with Foster Friess, a Republican fund-raiser, and with investors connected to Sheldon Adelson, the party megadonor, according to meeting records obtained by The New York Times. He also met with Steven Chancellor, an Indiana coal executive and Republican fund-raiser.”

Democrats Have Many Possible 2020 Candidates

Frank Bruni: “Dozens of prominent Democrats are at least flirting with running in 2020, and while it’s easy to look at them and play Goldilocks — too cold, too hot, too bald, too blond, too Wall Street, too wordy — it’s just as easy to believe. The perfect person? The party certainly lacks that. But potentially effective candidates? It’s lousy with them, though we chromosomally dyspeptic pundits prefer to shake our heads and sigh.”

“Republicans crowed about their supposed bounty in 2016 even as Donald Trump laid waste to it. Democrats bemoan their slim pickings in 2020 even though the field is positively obese. There are elders in their 70s and whippersnappers below 50; governors who can present themselves as Washington outsiders and senators who can tout their inside game; show horses and workhorses; progressives who didn’t just conveniently rechristen themselves that way and moderates who’d probably be potent in the general election if they could just survive the primaries. There are Westerners and Easterners and, in happy contrast to cycles past, more than a few women and people of color.”

“To worry that there’s no obvious winner is to ignore history. Presidents aren’t obvious until they’re sitting at the Resolute Desk (and sometimes not even then). Consider the last three.”

Quote of the Day

“I hear so many Republican senators grumble about Trump’s ethics, about his name-calling. … At some point Republican enablers in the House and Senate are going to say publicly what they’ve been saying privately. And that’s when things change and we see a president back off this kind of name-calling, not telling the truth, sending out these tweets, all that.”

— Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), on Meet the Press.

Graham Says Firing Mueller Would Lead to End of Trump

Sen. Lindsey Graham warned President Trump not to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, Reuters reports.

Said Graham: “The only reason Mr. Mueller could ever be dismissed is for cause. I see no cause when it comes to Mr. Mueller. I pledge to the American people as a Republican, to ensure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference.”

He added: “As I have said before, if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation.”

Democrats Expand Generic Ballot Lead

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 50% of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40% want a GOP-controlled one.

“That double-digit lead — typically a sign of strong Democratic performance for the upcoming election — is up from the party’s 6-point edge in January’s NBC/WSJ poll, which was 49% to 43%, though the change is within the poll’s margin of error.”

Trump Attacks Special Counsel

“For the second straight day, President Trump was unrestrained in his commentary about Robert Mueller’ expanding investigation, which is probing not only Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links to his campaign, but also whether the president has sought to obstruct justice,” the Washington Post reports.

Trump tweeted, “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added… does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

New York Times: “The attack on Mr. Mueller, a longtime Republican who was appointed F.B.I. director under a Republican president, George W. Bush, followed a statement by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer published Saturday calling on the Justice Department to end the special counsel investigation. Together, the comments raised the question once again about whether the president might be seeking to lay the ground to try to fire Mr. Mueller.”

Kushner Filed False Documents with New York City

“When the Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents and turning a tidy profit,” the AP reports.

“But that’s exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid.”