Trump’s Strategy Is to Limit and Attack Investigators

“Frustrated and impatient, fed up with waiting and eager to fight back, President Trump has embarked on what amounts to a two-prong strategy to contain the threat and undercut the credibility of the escalating investigations targeting him and his associates,” the New York Times reports.

“The blizzard of Twitter messages combined with a string of public statements by his attorney, RudyGiuliani, in recent days seemed aimed at turning the focus away from the conduct of the president or his team to that of their pursuers while laying out a series of red lines to limit the reach and duration of the primary inquiry.”

China Calls Trump’s Bluff

New York Times: “Chinese negotiators left Washington this weekend with a significant win: a willingness by the Trump administration to hold off for now on imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports. China gave up little in return, spurning the administration’s nudges for a concrete commitment to buy more goods from the United States, and avoiding limits on its efforts to build new high-tech Chinese industries.”

“The trade fight is far from over. And large Chinese technology companies in particular could be vulnerable if the United States starts punching again, with administration officials appearing to back away from Mr. Trump’s pledges to help ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications company hit with severe American penalties.”

“Still, the latest round of negotiations showed that a confident China could be more than a match for divided American officials who have made often discordant demands.”

Trump Backs Down on Justice Department Threat

“The White House and the Justice Department have put off a high-stakes confrontation over the FBI’s use of a confidential source to aid an investigation into the Trump campaign, after top law enforcement and intelligence officials met with President Trump on Monday to discuss the brewing controversy,” the Washington Post reports.

Instead, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly plans to convene another gathering between the officials and congressional leaders to “review highly classified and other information” about the source and intelligence he provided.

Trump Doesn’t Use a Secure Phone

“President Trump uses a White House cell phone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials – a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance,” Politico reports.

“The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use.”

“The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts.”

Sanders Will Decline Democratic Senate Nomination

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has formally announced that he is running for reelection this fall, Seven Days reports.

“Sanders plans to seek the Democratic nomination in Vermont’s August primary. If he wins, she said, he would ‘respectfully’ decline the nomination and run as an independent in the general election. Sanders would, however, accept the endorsement of the Vermont Democratic Party.”

Backchannel to Trump for Sale

Associated Press: “Trump fundraiser Elliot Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears. Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work. It was time to cash in.”

“In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Elliot Broidy and George Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP included work summaries and contracting documents and proposals.”

Navarro Pushed Suspected FBI Informant for Trump Job

President Trump’s top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, “recommended appointing Stefan Halper, an academic and suspected FBI informant on the Trump campaign, to a senior role in the Trump administration,” Axios has learned.

“During the transition everyone involved in Trump’s presidential campaign were asked to submit resumes for administration positions. Halper, who already knew Navarro in the context of being a China scholar and interviewing for his anti-China book and film, pitched himself for an ambassadorship in Asia… Navarro says he submitted Halper’s name for the Asian ambassadorship — we have not been able to confirm the country — along with around a dozen other people for roles in the region.”

Mulvaney Wants Ryan to Step Down

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney “strongly endorsed the idea that House speaker Paul Ryan should step down in order to trigger an election that would force House Democrats to vote for unpopular Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi,” the Weekly Standard reports.

Said Mulvaney: “I’ve talked with Kevin about this privately but not as much publicly. Wouldn’t it be great to force a Democrat running in a tight race to have to put up or shut up about voting for Nancy Pelosi eight weeks before an election? That’s a really, really good vote for us to force if we can figure out how to do it.”

Obamas Will Produce Shows for Netflix

Former President Obama formally announced “a multiyear production deal with Netflix in which he and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, will produce television shows and films for the streaming service,” the New York Times reports.

“The deal will give Mr. Obama an international television platform during his post-presidency, allowing him to reach millions of people in the United States and internationally. The couple has created ‘Higher Ground Productions,’ a company to produce content for Netflix, the streaming service announced.”

Variety: “It is unknown how much the Obamas’ Netflix agreement is worth. In March, Penguin Random House signed the couple to a joint book deal that pays them a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs.”

Why Is Trump Freaking Out Now?

Jonathan Chait: “This weekend, the New York Times revealed that, in August 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met in Trump Tower with representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who offered campaign help… The deeper question is how closely related the Gulf story is to the heart of the Russia question. Was it just another one of Donald Jr.’s legal misadventures? Or did Nader, Prince, and the Gulf States play a central role in facilitating a corrupt deal with Russia?”

“Trump’s furious lashing out, including his reckless escalation of a crisis with the Department of Justice this weekend, provides interesting clues. Trump has no poker face, no chill. The closer the investigators get to incriminating evidence, the more intensely he rages. He resembles a suspect at a crime scene screaming at the police not to go into the attic. And now that attic is looking awfully interesting.”

First Read: “Don’t get distracted — that reporting of a second Trump Tower meeting in 2016 was the biggest news from the weekend.”

19 Ratings Changes All Towards Democrats

“After the latest round of changes, Inside Elections now has 68 Republican seats rated as vulnerable compared to just 10 vulnerable Democratic seats. And there are at least a couple dozen more GOP-held seats that could develop into competitive races in the months ahead.”

“That discrepancy in the playing field is reminiscent of previous ‘wave’ elections. In April 2010, there were 68 vulnerable Democratic House seats and 11 vulnerable Republican seats. Republicans gained 63 seats later than year. And in May 2006, there were 42 vulnerable Republican seats and 11 vulnerable Democratic seats. Six months later, Democrats gained 30 seats.”