White House

Some Want Kushner to Take a Leave

Washington Post: “Some White House aides have discreetly discussed among one another whether Kushner should play a lesser role — or even take a leave — at least until the Russia-related issues calm, but they have been reluctant to discuss that view with Kushner himself, and Kushner’s network of allies within the West Wing has rallied behind him.”

“Those close to Kushner said he has no plans to take a reduced role, though people who have spoken to him in recent weeks say that he is increasingly weary of the nonstop frenzy.”

Should Kushner Be Worried About the Comey Memos?

Ryan Lizza: “One of the overlooked aspects of yesterday’s news that the F.B.I. is interested in Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, is that Kushner played a role in the firing of James Comey, the former F.B.I. director. Kushner is not formally a target of the F.B.I.’s sprawling investigation, but I was reminded of his role in Comey’s removal while discussing Kushner with a person close to Comey. The former F.B.I. director is known to have drafted a series of memos about his interactions with Trump, and—importantly—with other White House and Administration officials. Whether Kushner is mentioned in the Comey memos is not known.”

“Some of the commentary about these Comey memos has suggested that they were simply personal notes that weren’t shared widely at the F.B.I. That is not the case.”

Said a source close to Comey: “The Bureau has them all. They’ve always had them all. That’s another thing that people sort of missed the point of. These memos weren’t just some personal little effort on the part of Jim. He was the tip of the operation, and knew it, and really felt accountable to the rest of the people around him to tell them what is going on and help them be a part of the decision-making on what he should say and do.”

Trump Returns to a White House In Crisis

President Trump “headed home on Saturday to confront a growing political and legal threat, as his top aides tried to contain the fallout from reports that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a focus of investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the president’s campaign and transition teams,” the New York Times reports.

“The White House canceled a presidential trip to Iowa in the coming days and was putting together a damage-control plan to expand the president’s legal team, reorganize his communications staff and wall off a scandal that has jeopardized his agenda and now threatens to engulf his family.”

Also interesting: White House counsel Donald McGahn “has been increasingly uneasy in his role since Mr. Trump ignored his advice to delay Mr. Comey’s dismissal.”

Trump Family Meets with RNC Leaders

“Amid mounting questions at the White House about Russia, three prominent members of President Trump’s family — his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and Eric’s wife, Lara — have ramped up their engagement with the Republican Party’s national political operation, having met privately with GOP leaders to share their concerns and outlook,” the Washington Post reports.

“Their appearance at the RNC irked at least two prominent Republicans who were briefed on the session, who wondered whether it was appropriate for the president’s sons, who run the Trump family real estate business, to be highly involved in discussing the party’s strategy and resources.”

CIA Would Consider Kushner’s Actions Espionage

Former acting CIA director John McLaughlan responded to reports that Jared Kushner “discussed setting up a secret communications line between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, saying if such reports are true, it would be considered espionage,” The Hill reports.

Said McLaughlan: “I don’t want to overstate this because obviously there is a lot we don’t know… But I can’t keep out of my mind the thought that, if an American intelligence officer had done anything like this, we’d consider it espionage.”

Trump Aides Enter Risky Stage of Russia Probe

Politico: “Now that Trump’s current and former aides and allies officially know a probe exists, they’re responsible for preserving all available information that might be relevant. That’s a task complicated by the rise of auto-delete apps like Confide, Signal and WhatsApp, as well as the move his campaign staffers have made into the White House.”

“Hanging over them all: any failure to keep track of emails, messages and other records could expose them to criminal charges down the line.”

Kushner Had Undisclosed Contacts with Russian Envoy

“Jared Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign,” seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

“The new information about the two calls as well as other details uncovered by Reuters shed light on when and why Kushner first attracted FBI attention and show that his contacts with Russian envoy Sergei Kislyak were more extensive than the White House has acknowledged.”

Kushner Wanted Secret Back Channel to Moscow

“Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring,” the Washington Post reports.

“Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.”

“Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.”

Trump Mulls Senior Staff Shake Up

President Trump “is actively discussing major changes in the White House, including a shakeup of his senior team, after spending much of his free time during his overseas trip weighing the Russia investigation and the political crisis it poses for him,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Meetings devoted to White House operations are scheduled for next week, officials said. Other revisions on the table include a new filter of the president’s social-media habit and fewer scheduled press briefings… The anticipated moves are the latest sign of how the investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s election, and the circumstances of the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, is defining the new administration.”

Said one Trump adviser: “Everything is in play.”

Trump to Set Up Scandal ‘War Room’

President Trump’s White House “is preparing to establish a ‘war room’ to combat mounting questions about ties between Russia and his presidential campaign… addressing a scandal that has threatened to consume his young presidency,” Reuters reports.

“Upon Trump’s return from a nine-day overseas trip, the administration will add experienced political professionals and possibly lawyers to handle the Russia probe, which has gained new urgency since the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to head the investigation.”

FBI Probing Attempted Hack of Trump Organization

“The FBI is investigating an attempted overseas cyberattack against the Trump Organization, summoning President Trump’s sons, Don Jr. and Eric, for an emergency session with the bureau’s cybersecurity agents and representatives of the CIA,” officials tell ABC News.

“Law enforcement officials… confirmed the attempted hack and said the subsequent meeting took place at the FBI’s New York headquarters on May 8, the day before Trump fired FBI director James Comey.”

Trump Turns First Foreign Trip Into a Disaster

President Trump “punctured any illusions that he was on a fence-mending tour of Europe, declining to explicitly endorse NATO’s mutual defense pledge and lashing out at fellow members for what he called their ‘chronic underpayments’ to the alliance,” the New York Times reports.

“On a tense day when Mr. Trump brought the ‘America first’ themes of his presidential campaign to the very heart of Europe, he left European leaders visibly unsettled, with some openly lamenting divisions with the United States on trade, climate and the best way to confront Russia. The discord was palpable even in body language. When Mr. Trump greeted Emmanuel Macron, France’s new president, they grabbed each other’s hands, jaws clenched, in an extended grip that turned Mr. Trump’s knuckles white. When the leaders lined up to pose for the traditional photograph at NATO headquarters, Mr. Trump appeared to push aside the Montenegrin prime minister, Dusko Markovic, to get to his assigned place in the front.”

Former Russia ambassador Michael McFaul: “In Saudi Arabia, Trump promised no lectures. But at NATO, he lectured our allies at length.”

First Read: “Two days ago, you wouldn’t have been wrong to declare Trump’s overseas trip a relative success. But after yesterday — the ‘push aside,’ critical comments about Germany, no firm Article 5 embrace by Trump, and no formal position on Russia sanctions (!!!) — the trip became a disaster.”