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National Govt & Politics
Roller coaster Thursday for President Trump on Russia, Cohen, Cabinet
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Roller coaster Thursday for President Trump on Russia, Cohen, Cabinet

Roller coaster Thursday for President Trump on Russia, Cohen, Cabinet
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Roller coaster Thursday for President Trump on Russia, Cohen, Cabinet

In a turbulent Thursday, President Donald Trump raised new questions about how he might deal with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, admitted that Michael Cohen was his lawyer in legal dealings with porn star Stormy Daniels, watched as his Cabinet saw a day of success, verbal scrapes, and setbacks, and then saw a Senate panel approve a bill designed to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

A day after his personal lawyer notified a federal court that he would exercise his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in a lawsuit brought by Daniels, the President did an interview by telephone on his favorite morning television program, "Fox and Friends" - but that only created more news.

Instead of just being a Fox News bullhorn for his views on a number of different subjects - Mr. Trump in the interview instead stirred new interest in how he will treat the Russia probe, and the legal questions surrounding a $130,000 pre-election payment in 2016 to an adult film star.

Even for reporters - it was a busy day. Let's run down some of the headlines.

1. Trump raises personal intervention in Russia probe. In an interview on his favorite morning television program, "Fox and Friends," the President vented more of his frustration about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and seemed to raise the possibility that he might take some action in the future. "You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it's a disgrace," the President said. "And our Justice Department - which I try and stay away from - but at some point, I won't," Mr. Trump said, making a statement which was interpreted by some as a threat to intervene in the case.

2. From Fox News to court documents in two hours. Not only were fans of the President watching as he joined "Fox and Friends" by telephone from the White House, but federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York were listening, too. And two hours later, comments by the President were already in a footnote of a new submission to a federal judge who is dealing with evidence seized in an FBI raid on the President's longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. While Cohen had said that many of the documents and computer records seized by the feds were involved in legal work that he did for the President, radio host Sean Hannity, and one other person, Mr. Trump had a different view, saying Cohen does a "tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work.

3. Trump interview opens new questions on Cohen, Stormy Daniels. As the story has slowly played out over a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels - what she said was hush money from President Trump before the 2016 elections - Mr. Trump has said little about it, telling reporters aboard Air Force One in recent weeks that he knew nothing about the payment made to Daniels by Michael Cohen. But on "Fox and Friends," the answer was different, as Mr. Trump clearly acknowledged that he was a party to the legal settlement. "He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me," the President said. "From what I see, he did nothing wrong." That prompted a Fox News host to ask, "Then why is he taking the Fifth?"

4. White House doctor, Trump's VA nominee, withdraws. Even before getting on the phone with "Fox and Friends," there was already big news for the White House, as the day began with what many on Capitol Hill had been expecting, with White House physician Ronny Jackson announcing that he would drop his bid to be Veterans Secretary, amid growing reports of embarrassing personal stories. "He's a great man, and he got treated very, very unfairly," President Donald Trump told reporters, as he met with children of White House reporters just outside the Oval Office. For the President, the episode seemed to be an unforced political error, as he's made veterans issues one of his main causes since entering office.

5. Senators demand better vetting on next VA nominee. As the VA search resumed, members of both parties made clear they want the White House to look for someone with more experience, worried that the President's first pick was done on a whim. "The best possible person that we can get," said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, when asked who the President should select. "I want to find the best person available that we can get," Isakson told reporters. "The President put a guy out there who was not qualified," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). "This was so bungled." "I feel like they put the President in a bit of a difficult situation," said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).  "Maybe the vetting could have been done better."  For now, the VA will keep its acting director, as the President must find a new nominee.  He fired the last VA Secretary, David Shulkin, in late March.

6. Pompeo wins Senate approval as Secretary of State. As the White House tried to pick up the pieces surrounding the President's failed VA pick, officials were able to celebrate a 57-42 vote in the Senate to confirm CIA chief Mike Pompeo as the next Secretary of State, giving the President a top diplomat who clearly seems more in line with Mr. Trump's world view. Six Democrats - Donnelly (Indiana), Heitkamp (North Dakota), Jones (Alabama), Manchin (West Virginia), McCaskill (Missouri), and Nelson (Florida), joined with all Republicans, and one independent (King of Maine) in voting for Pompeo as the 70th Secretary of State. "He has the qualifications and experience necessary to successfully fulfill his role," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).   In the midst of all of the other controversy involving the President and the White House on this Thursday, the Pompeo vote was a big win, as was later Senate approval of the President's choice for Ambassador to Germany,  Richard Grenell.

7. Pruitt dukes it out with lawmakers in contentious hearing. After weeks of stories about ethics issues involving his stewardship at the EPA, Administrator Scott Pruitt spent much of Thursday in the proverbial 'hot seat' in Congress, defending his work at the EPA, and warding off the verbal barbs of Democrats. "You are unfit to hold public office," one said. "You seem unable to take responsibility for your actions," added another. "In any other administration, Republican or Democrat, you would be long gone by now," said one more Democrat.  While Pruitt sternly defended his decisions, he seemed to change his story on the exact reasons that he needed a $43,000 secure phone booth for his office, and altered his explanation of raises which were engineered for some of his top aides, as he left Democrats looking for deeper explanations on a variety of fronts. While Pruitt seemed to survive the theater of Thursday's hearings, it wasn't clear if he had inadvertently opened other lines of questions about some of his actions.

8. The first real push back on Russia from Congress. There has been talk for months from Republicans about how they could dissuade President Trump from threats to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller - but on Thursday - there was finally legislative action, as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan bill which would allow the Judicial Branch to review the firing of someone like Mueller. The plan was supported by four Republicans, all the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "While I do not believe President Trump intends to remove Special Counsel Mueller, I believe this legislation has enduring value for future special counsel investigations," said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not schedule this bill for a vote - but it still represented the first real warning shot by the GOP Congress to the President on the Russia probe - and Mueller.   Look for Democrats to start making a lot of public calls for a vote on this bill, as they try to convince the President to leave Mueller alone.

9. Diamond and Silk make their case to Congress. Almost any other day, the appearance on Capitol Hill of Diamond and Silk, a pair of black women who have become darlings of conservative politicians, would have made for big news - but instead it was merely a footnote in a day of fast-paced political events. At a House hearing that looked at political bias on the internet, the two social media personalities made the case that Facebook and YouTube had - on purpose - reduced their ability to make money by 'monetizing' videos on those social media platforms, simply because of their political views and support for President Trump. Any other day, this would have been playing live on the cable channels, and would have dominated social media. But on this Thursday, there was too much to digest. So, to paraphrase John Stewart's line from the Daily Show, here's your five minutes of Zen. Watching this video is also a good test, as one might expect that people on both sides will find reasons to like what they see and hear, no matter your personal political bias.

10. My kids don't know how big their Thursday was. All of my kids have come to work with me over the years at the Capitol; this time I brought my two younger boys. They were tuckered out by mid-afternoon as I dragged them up and down the stairs, chasing lawmakers, doing interviews, checking the traps, and seeing old friends all around Capitol Hill. In the midst of all of the news, all the partisan bickering, all of the political drama, it's important to remind people that those who work on Capitol Hill are good souls. My parents started work in the halls of Congress in the late 1950's, and I'm still here almost 60 years later. We had just walked into the Capitol on Thursday when we ran into Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). It was just steps from where I remember - as a 12 year old - meeting Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC). Maybe they'll stick around Capitol Hill, maybe not. But it's great to have them here. I just wish there had been a little less news.

 

Read More

News

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  • If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, apparently you’re not alone. No less an authority than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says people frequently confuse the two holidays. >> Read more trending news Make no mistake about it: Both are incredibly important holidays, with their common focus on Americans who’ve served in the military. The key distinction: Memorial Day “is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle,” the VA says. While Veterans Day also honors the dead, it is “the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime.” Here’s a guide to each holiday: Memorial Day When it is: This year, it is on May 27. Its original name: Decoration Day. Initially, it honored only those soldiers who’d died during the Civil War. In 1868, a veteran of the Union Army, Gen. John A. Logan, decided to formalize a growing tradition of towns decorating veterans’ graves with flowers by organizing a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30 Logan also served in Congress from Illinois and in 1884, unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the Republican ticket. During World War I, the holiday’s focus expanded to honoring those lost during all U.S. wars. When it became official: In 1968, Congress officially established Memorial Day, as it had gradually come to be known, as a federal holiday that always takes place on the last Monday in May. Its unofficial designation: Memorial Day is still a solemn day of remembrance everywhere from Arlington National Cemetery to metro Atlanta, where a number of ceremonies and events will take place on Monday. On a lighter note, though, many people view the arrival of the three-day weekend each year as the start of summer. One more thing to know: In 2000, Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance. It asks all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year to remember the dead. Veterans Day When it is: Nov. 11 every year.  Its original name: Armistice Day. The armistice or agreement signed between the Allies and Germany that ended World War I called for the cessation of all hostilities to take effect at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918. One year later, on Nov. 11, 1919, the first Armistice Day was celebrated in the U.S.  When it became official: In 1938, a congressional act established Armistice Day as an annual legal holiday. In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks first proposed the idea of expanding the holiday to one honoring veterans of all U.S. wars. In 1954, the holiday legally became known as Veterans Day. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan presented Alabama resident Weeks with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in recognition of his efforts in creating Veterans Day. Its temporary relocation: In 1968, the same congressional act that established Memorial Day moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October every year. That law took effect in 1971; just four years later, in 1975, President Gerald Ford -- citing the original date’s “historic and patriotic significance,” signed a bill that redesignated Nov. 11 as Veterans Day every year. One more thing to know: Despite much confusion over the spelling, it’s Veterans Day, plural, and without any apostrophes. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which explains on its website: “Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an ‘s’ at the end of ‘veterans’ because it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”    
  • Authorities were called to a church in Bridgeton, New Jersey, after reports of a man throwing rocks through stained-glass windows, according to news reports. >> Read more trending news  The incident happened at Immaculate Conception Holy Cross Church on Saturday, NJ.com reported. Witnesses called police and described the suspect, reporting that the man had thrown two large rocks through two stained-glass windows at the church. Police said they arrested a suspect identified as Norris Glass III, 40, at a nearby gas station, according to NJ.com. Glass is facing criminal mischief charges after police said he caused $4,000 in damage to the church. >> Trending: Horrified mother watches son, boyfriend drown as powerful rip current drags them out to sea Glass is no stranger to authorities. He was convicted of criminal trespassing in 2013 and pleaded guilty to obstructing the administration of law in 2017, the news outlet reported.  
  • Memorial Day -- it is a holiday many Americans celebrate by spending time with loved ones and enjoying the May weather.  >> Read more trending news But how might some of the more than 21 million U.S. veterans view and celebrate one the country's most somber holidays, which was created to remember the men and women who died fighting for their country? Retired U.S. Army Gen. Bob Drolet told WHNT, 'We're engaged in conflict today in the Middle East and there are people who are giving their lives almost on a daily basis. So you have to have a day where you remember the sacrifices.'  And there are many sacrifices to remember. According to findings from the Pew Research Center, since Sept. 11, 2001, about half of U.S. vets have served alongside a comrade who was killed, with that number rising for men and women in combat.   And because of those firsthand horrors experienced in battle, many soldiers and veterans spend Memorial Day a bit differently than the average American might.   Take Capt. David Danelo, the author of 'The Return' and a Marine Corps infantry officer who served in Iraq. 'I'm proud to be a civilian and I'm proud to be a Marine,' he said.  In honor of Memorial Day, Danelo talked to Legacy.com and said that on Memorial Day, he not only remembers his fallen comrades, but goes to visit the graves of those who may have been forgotten. 'There's one cemetery in Philadelphia that has a Civil War veteran who I'll go see. He’s long been forgotten and nobody thinks about him. I just walk around there and pay my respects to (his) memory.'  The 'Flags In' ceremony is another way a lot of soldiers commemorate Memorial Day: placing flags on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery.  'It's kind of an emotional process to know, 'cause I feel connected to each one of these soldiers that served before me. So it's kind of like a brotherhood thing. We just want to take care of our brothers and sisters, make sure they look good,' Pfc. Michael Samuel told USA Today.  But still, at least for wounded retired Army Staff Sgt. Luke Murphy, there is a feeling that civilians could make more of an effort to pay respects to fallen soldiers.  In a CNN op-ed piece Murphy gave an emotional account of losing his friend and fellow service member Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bishop while serving in Iraq.  Murphy wrote, in part, 'When soldiers die, they don't just roll over and quit like in the movies. They fight like hell. ... And sometimes they lose. The biggest loser is the family, though. ... The next biggest losers are the guys who were with the soldier. Many times they've got survivor's guilt. ... So, what do nonfamily members and nonveterans think about on Memorial Day? Sometimes I think they just don't give a damn.' Murphy suggests that people who want to show respect for members of the military make a donation to organizations such as Homes for Our Troops. That's the program that built Murphy and his family a new home that is accessible for someone with his injuries.   So however you choose to spend Memorial Day, whether by the pool or at a parade, try to remember why the holiday exists. 
  • An Oxford, Mississippi, police officer has been charged with the murder of a north Mississippi mother. >> Read more trending news The shooting happened Sunday afternoon in the 1000 block of Suncrest Drive. Officers arrived to the scene to find an “unresponsive person” who was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim was identified as Dominique Lashelle Clayton, 32. She was the mother of four, according to neighbors. Friends told WHBQ-TV that Clayton was shot in the back of the head during a domestic situation. Her 8-year-old son found her after being dropped off at the house by a family member on Sunday. Interim Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said the department learned on Sunday that Matthew Paul Kinne, an Oxford police officer, was possibly 'involved' with Clayton. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation took over the case, and Kinne was developed as a suspect. Dominiques Clayton's sister, Shyjuan, said Kinne and Dominique Clayton had been having an affair. Kinne was arrested Monday night and is being held in the Panola County jail. He is charged with murder. “We will not hide behind our badge,' McCutchen said. 'Dominque was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a member of our community. This day is about her.” Kinne has been a police officer with the Oxford Police Department for four years.
  • Operating rooms at Seattle Children’s Hospital were shut down after discovery of Aspergillus, a fungus that can cause infections, hospital staff said Tuesday. >> Read more trending news 'Last weekend, air tests detected Aspergillus in several operating rooms and equipment storage rooms at our main campus,' a hospital spokeswoman said. 'Aspergillus is a common mold often present in the air we breathe. However, in rare instances, it can cause complications for surgical patients. Though we believe the risk to our patients is very low, we will be contacting our surgical patients who may have been exposed. The fungus postponed between 20 and 50 surgeries per day, and 3,000 patients were being notified, hospital staff said. A patient hotline has been activated: (206) 987-1061 'Patient safety is our top priority, and we are taking this situation very seriously. All affected operating rooms have been closed and will remain so until we are confident that the areas are clear of Aspergillus. We are postponing or diverting some surgical cases and moving others to our Bellevue campus. We will also perform some cases in areas of our hospital that have been determined to be clear of Aspergillus, like our cardiac catheterization facility. We are working with an outside industrial hygienist to investigate the source of the Aspergillus and implement mitigation measures. We have also reported the situation to the Washington State Department of Health.' Most people breathe in Aspergillus spores every day without getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “However, people with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health problems due to Aspergillus,' according to the CDC's site. 'The types of health problems caused by Aspergillus include allergic reactions, lung infections, and infections in other organs.” Seattle Children’s Hospital did 11,498 outpatient surgeries and 4,586 inpatient surgeries across their facilities in the 2018 fiscal year, according to hospital statistics. Seattle Children’s has roughly 50,000 annual emergency department visits and 38,000 urgent care visits across all locations.