‘The Most Successful Covert Operation in History’

Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden called Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election the “most successful covert influence operation in history,” Yahoo News reports.

“Hayden argued that the release of stolen Democratic emails on WikiLeaks was the Kremlin’s egregious act, not the hacks to obtain the information.”

Said Hayden: “If we as NSA could have an insight into … Russia through the same techniques, game on. But now you make the great distinction: What the Russians then did with the information. And then that turned it into what we call a covert influence operation.”

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Is Going Nowhere

“As a candidate, President Trump billed himself as a new breed of think-big Republican, pitching a $1 trillion campaign pledge to reconstruct the nation’s roadways, waterworks and bridges — along with a promise to revive the lost art of the bipartisan deal,” the New York Times reports.

“But an ambitious public works plan, arguably his best chance of rising above the partisan rancor of his first six months in office, is fast becoming an afterthought — at precisely the moment Mr. Trump needs a big, unifying issue to rewrite the narrative of his chaotic administration.”

“Infrastructure remains stuck near the rear of the legislative line, according to two dozen administration officials, legislators and labor leaders involved in coming up with a concrete proposal.”

Trump Uses Clinton Playbook to Combat Investigation

New York Times: “Much as the Clintons did, Mr. Trump is assembling a team of lawyers both inside and outside the White House to draw issues related to the investigation away from the rest of the West Wing. And he has embarked on a campaign to discredit the investigators before they can even get very far in their investigation, hoping to do to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, what the Clintons did to Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel.”

“Advisers to Mr. Trump have studied and privately expressed admiration for the no-holds-barred way the Clintons attacked Mr. Starr’s integrity at every turn in an effort to shift attention from their conduct to his during the Whitewater and Monica S. Lewinsky investigations. The Clintons, Mr. Trump’s advisers said, knew how to ‘go to the mattresses,’ a phrase sometimes used approvingly in this White House, and they added that they were trying to do the same thing.”

McCain’s Former Primary Rival Wants Him to Resign

Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) former primary rival, Kelli Ward (R), urged the ailing senator to step aside after his diagnosis of brain cancer, the Washington Post reports.

Said Ward: “As a Christian, I know there can always be miracles. But the likelihood that John McCain is going to be able to come back to the Senate and be at full force for the people of our state and the people of the United States is low.”

She went on to say that she hoped to be appointed to fill his seat should he leave office.

Congress Reaches Deal on Russia Sanctions

“Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on sweeping sanctions legislation to punish Russia for its election-meddling and aggression toward its neighbors, they said Saturday, defying the White House’s argument that President Trump needs flexibility to adjust the sanctions to fit his diplomatic initiatives with Moscow,” the New York Times reports.

“The new legislation sharply limits the president’s ability to suspend or terminate the sanctions. At a moment when investigations into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian officials have cast a shadow over his presidency, Mr. Trump could soon face a bleak decision: veto the bill — and fuel accusations that he is doing the bidding of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — or sign legislation imposing sanctions his administration abhors.”

Exchange of the Day

Anthony Scaramucci gave his first interview as White House communications director to Matt Boyle of Breitbart.

SCARAMUCCI: “Did you send your job application form in yet, Matt? Do you need my email so I can get your resume over here?”

BOYLE: “Anthony, I’m honored, maybe we can talk about that later.”

Trump’s ‘Axis of Adults’ Is Breaking Apart

Eli Lake: “If you thought grownups like Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson were secretly running the administration, think again.”

“In the case of McMaster, administration officials tell me he is perceived not to be a reliable messenger of the president’s wishes. What’s more, administration figures tell me, principals including Tillerson, Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo have a direct line to Trump. They can go around McMaster and make their case on interagency disputes directly to the commander in chief. For a national security adviser, this dynamic is deadly.”

No Respect for Sean Spicer

Wall Street Journal: “Less than a month into his new job, White House press secretary Sean Spicer needed to keep his food and drink cold. He wanted a mini-fridge.”

“He dispatched a top aide to a nearby executive office building where junior research employees are crammed into a room, surviving on Lean Cuisine frozen lunches. Mr. Spicer wants your icebox, the aide said, according to people familiar with the incident. They refused to give it up.”

“So Mr. Spicer waited until sundown—after his young staffers had left—to take matters into his own hands. He was spotted by a fellow White House official lugging the icebox down the White House driveway after 8 p.m.”

A Long-Hidden Memo Says President Can Be Indicted

New York Times: “A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?”

“The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades… amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.”

From the memo: “It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties.”