President Trump has been publicly toying with Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, referring to the top Justice official as "beleaguered," criticizing Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, and professing from the White House Rose Garden that he is "disappointed" in the former Alabama senator.
But when asked about Sessions' future in the Trump administration, Trump demurred, saying, "Time will tell." Many of Sessions' former Republican colleagues have come to his defense, perhaps none more strongly than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). While Graham said in a statement Tuesday that Sessions was "one of the most decent people I've ever met in my political life," he took his rhetoric a step further Wednesday by directly criticizing the president's "weakness."
"I would fire somebody that I did not believe could serve me well, rather than trying to humiliate them in public, which is a sign of weakness," Graham said:
Here's Graham's full broadside on Trump, saying he's acting out of "weakness." https://t.co/aYvGkZQ39D
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 26, 2017
Chelsea Manning marvels at the U.S. military's 'cowardice' after Trump announces ban on transgender recruits
Chelsea Manning hit back at President Trump's ban on transgender individuals in the military Wednesday, dissing the administration for its "cowardice." Manning skewered the notion that the U.S. military is the "biggest" and "baddest" force in the world, considering it "cries about a few trans people":
so, biggest baddest most $$ military on earth cries about a few trans people but funds the F-35? sounds like cowardice #WeGotThis
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) July 26, 2017
Manning, a former army intelligence analyst, was convicted of a 2010 leak to WikiLeaks of classified military and diplomatic information. Former President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence to just seven years before leaving office in January, and Manning was released in May. Manning came out as transgender in 2013. Kimberly Alters
In a 45-minute Oval Office interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, President Trump said he hopes to tackle tax reform after health care, however that turns out, and then infrastructure; said he expects to declare Iran noncompliant with the nuclear deal in September, even if his advisers object; took aim again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions; and named his economic adviser Gary Cohn as a candidate for Federal Reserve chairman next year.
"He doesn't know this, but yes, he is," Trump said of Cohn, who was sitting in on the interview along with Ivanka Trump, White House Chief of Staff Renice Priebus, strategic communications director Hope Hicks, and new communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen is also "in the running to stay," he added. Trump said that Scaramucci would help quash the infighting and melodrama in the West Wing, which he characterized, apparently jokingly, as "White House stuff, where they're fighting over who loves me the most."
On tax reform, Trump said his priority is to focus on lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and helping "the middle-income people in this country, who have gotten screwed." If any taxes are raised, "it's going to be on high-income people," he said, though, the Journal notes, Trump and his team have been "vague on significant middle-class provisions" in the tax overhaul, "while promising specific benefits for high-income households such as the repeal of the estate tax and alternative minimum tax."
Trump has been increasingly critical of Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia election-meddling and collusion investigation, and he argued to the Journal that this recusal was the reason Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel. He declined to say if he planned to fire Mueller, which would be very controversial and which he cannot do directly, telling the Journal: "I have no comment yet, because it's too early. But we'll see. We're going to see." He also did not express much confidence in Sessions, saying that the former senator's early endorsement of him was because Trump was popular in Sessions' home state, Alabama, "so it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement."
Below, Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire recaps Trump's mounting public and private abuse of Sessions, reminds why it is so unusual, and runs down what Trump may do next, assuming Sessions refuses to step down voluntarily. Peter Weber
President Trump's speech to the quadrennial Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday was not traditional Boy Scouts fare. Amid recounting his electoral victory, calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, criticizing former President Barack Obama, predicting that the "fake media" will under-count the size of his "incredible, massive crowd, record-setting," and suggesting the gathered teenage boys do what they love, Trump told the more than 30,000 Boy Scouts about an encounter he had with famous home-builder William Levitt in the 1980s.
"I'll tell you a story that's very interesting for me," Trump began — and if you read about Levitt, it is hard to miss the similarities. Levitt and his brother, Arthur, revolutionized mass-production housing, helping create the modern suburban development and becoming very wealthy in the process. (He also famously refused to sell to black buyers.) In the 1960s, Levitt sold his company for about $90 million, and with his foreign third wife, "he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life," Trump recounted. "I won't go any more than that, because you're Boy Scouts so I'm not going to tell you what he did. Should I tell you? Should I tell you? You're Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life."
So Trump told about the time he met an old and bankrupt Levitt:
I saw him at a cocktail party. And it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross — Steve Ross, who was one of the great people. ... He had a lot of successful people at the party. And I was doing well, so I got invited to the party. I was very young. And I go in, but I'm in the real estate business, and I see a hundred people, some of whom I recognize, and they're big in the entertainment business. And I see sitting in the corner was a little old man who was all by himself. Nobody was talking to him. I immediately recognized that that man was the once great William Levitt, of Levittown. [Trump, Boy Scout Jamboree]
Strange moment. Trump tells 40,000 Boy Scouts about meeting NY developer William Levitt at a cocktail party. https://t.co/7ajx4GVwy5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 24, 2017
Early Monday, Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, released an 11-page statement to the House and Senate intelligence committees detailing what he described as "perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives out of thousands during the campaign and transition," insisting that he "did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government." Kushner is meeting behind closed doors with staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday and speaking privately with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about his role in Trump's campaign and its ties to Russia.
Kushner dismissed all four meetings, all of them previously reported in the media — two with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; one with the head of a Russian state bank, Sergey Gorkov; and the June 2016 meeting he said Donald Trump Jr. had invited him to with a Kremlin-linked lawyer — saying that none of them "were impactful in any way to the election or particularly memorable." In a new bit of information, Kushner said he found a way to get out of the Don Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer, writing: "In looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote 'Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.'"
Kushner said he had filed an incomplete security-clearance application prematurely by mistake, blaming an assistant. "I had no improper contacts," he concluded. "I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest." Peter Weber
As anyone with a brother or sister knows, it's always great when your parents are mad at your sibling because then your own shenanigans go unnoticed. It just so happens it works that way in politics, too.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson admitted to The Washington Examiner that he has found the silver lining to the Trump administration's ongoing scandals: "Let me put it this way," Carson said. "I'm glad that [President] Trump is drawing all the fire so I can get stuff done."
Carson knows something about drawing unwanted attention — he has been accused of elaborate exaggerations and brow-raising claims. But in this case, you've got to admire the man for his honesty. Jeva Lange
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met "more than just three times" at the G-20 summit earlier this month, but he downplayed the interactions, likening the world leaders to children in kindergarten, NBC News reports.
"When you are brought by your parents to a kindergarten do you mix with the people who are waiting in the same room to start going to a classroom?" Lavrov asked by way of illustration. "I remember when I was in that position I did spend five or 10 minutes in the kindergarten before they brought us to the classroom."
At his parole hearing Thursday, O.J. Simpson made the case for why he's a "good guy" who has just had some "problems with fidelity." The 70-year-old former football star has served nearly nine years of a 33-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from an incident in which Simpson and five other men confronted two sports memorabilia collectors to allegedly reclaim stolen heirlooms. The incident happened in 2007, more than a decade after Simpson was acquitted in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Simpson insisted during his hearing before the Nevada Board of Parole that he did not know that the men he was with were armed. He also claimed that "nobody's ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them." "I've always thought I've been pretty good with people. I basically have spent a conflict-free life," Simpson said, describing himself as a guy "that pretty much got along with everybody."
Catch a snippet of Simpson's statement below. Becca Stanek
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 20, 2017