Former Mueller aide thinks the leaked list of Mueller's questions actually came from the White House
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has about four dozen questions he'd like to ask President Trump, The New York Times reported Monday, sharing a leaked list of queries. On Tuesday morning, Trump called the leak "disgraceful" in an angry tweet, labeling collusion "a made up, phony crime ... that never existed." But what if the White House is responsible for the leak?
That's the theory of Michael Zeldin, a former Mueller aide who is now a CNN legal analyst. He thinks the questions may have been publicized by White House counsel in an effort to shape the president's thinking about whether to grant Mueller an interview. Zeldin's case rests on the way the questions are phrased.
"Because of the way these questions are written — lawyers wouldn't write questions this way, in my estimation. Some of the grammar is not even proper," he said on CNN on Tuesday. "So, I don't see this as a list of written questions that Mueller's office gave to the president. I think these are more notes that the White House has taken and then they have expanded upon the conversation to write out these as questions."
The Times, for its part, noted that the questions were provided by "someone outside Mr. Trump's legal team." Watch Zeldin's comments below. Bonnie Kristian
The Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee on Sunday announced a proposal to remove the presidential term limit that would constrain the rule of President Xi Jinping.
Under the present structure of the Chinese Constitution, Xi is limited to two five-year terms, the second of which is due to end in 2023. If the constitutional amendment is approved, Xi could potentially stay in office indefinitely. An editorial in a Chinese state newspaper said the change would not mean "the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure," but it quoted a Communist Party source saying China needs "consistent leadership" through 2035.
Xi's anti-corruption campaign has been popular among the public, but comments about the proposal on Weibo, China's Twitter analogue, suggested extending the term limit would be preferred over ending it. "If two terms are not enough, then they can write in a third term, but there needs to be a limit," wrote one user. "Getting rid of it is not good!" Bonnie Kristian
The Washington Post on Tuesday reported that last year, President Trump asked Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe whom he voted for in the 2016 election. McCabe was then the bureau's acting chief, and the alleged conversation is reportedly of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
But if you ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, it's really not a big deal — and hey, who knows if it really happened anyway. During Wednesday's briefing, ABC News' Cecilia Vega asked Sanders if Trump "[made] a habit" of asking federal employees whom they voted for. When Sanders replied that Trump and McCabe "have had limited and pretty non-substantive conversations," Vega fired back: "But that's kind of a yes or no question. He did or didn't ask." Sanders shrugged and replied, "I wasn't in the room, I don't know what was discussed."
Reporter: Does Pres. Trump ask career government officials their voting habits? @PressSec: "Not that I'm aware of."
Reporter: Did he ask McCabe how he voted?@PressSec: Trump and McCabe "have had limited and pretty non-substantive conversations." https://t.co/u7r11RRt0P pic.twitter.com/YFls9rj6J6
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 24, 2018
Later in the briefing, another reporter called the reported conversation between Trump and McCabe "the leading story of the day." Sanders disagreed: "I very seriously doubt that any person in America would list that as an issue they care about."
"All of the polling any person in here would take -- I very seriously doubt that any person in America would list that as an issue they care about," @PressSec says on President Trump reportedly asking Andrew McCabe who he voted for in 2016 election https://t.co/u7r11RRt0P pic.twitter.com/o8F4LgHQvU
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 24, 2018
The conversation between McCabe and the president reportedly occurred last May, shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and The Washington Post reported that Mueller is interested in its contents. McCabe thought the question about his political leanings was "disturbing," the Post reported. Kelly O'Meara Morales
On Tuesday, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp appeared on CNN's New Day and tried very hard to avoid talking about President Trump's alleged affair with an adult film star.
CNN's Alisyn Camerota began by asking Schlapp about a recent report that alleges that President Trump's campaign tried to cover up the tryst, which allegedly took place in 2006 when he was married to wife Melania, with campaign money. Schlapp responded: "I don't really have many thoughts on this, Alisyn. I don't even know what we know."
Schlapp then tried to claim that the report came out of "a gossip publication," referring to a lengthy interview the woman gave to InTouch Weekly. Camerota pointed out in response that the original story about the affair was published by The Wall Street Journal. "Do you think The Wall Street Journal is legit?" she asked.
Schlapp admitted that the Journal is credible, but spun back to referencing InTouch Weekly. "We're going to really talk about about an article by InTouch magazine on facts we don't even know to be true? We are all better than this," he said.
That's when Camerota struck: "Matt, so conservatives don't care anymore about extramarital affairs?" Watch a clip of the interview below, or watch the full segment at Mediaite. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Former Bush official defends Trump's reportedly vulgar comments about Haiti by dissing the country's beaches
On Friday, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp went on Fox News to offer a tenuous defense of President Trump's reported characterization of Haiti and several African states as "shithole countries." Schlapp, the former political director for former President George W. Bush, chose to back the president by ... disparaging the quality of Haiti's beaches.
Schlapp began by noting that Trump denied making the vulgar remarks entirely, before pivoting to his creative defense of the president's alleged comments. "Here are the facts. The facts are: I don't know anybody who has spent two weeks on the beach in Haiti."
Schlapp then moved on to blame the Democrats who were in the meeting — a bipartisan summit on immigration reform — for stirring up the controversy. "The president learned a lesson," Schlapp declared: "When the Democrats and their staff are in the Oval Office, they're gonna say and leak anything to harm you politically, and they did that."
Fox News' Sandra Smith pointed out in response that the Democrats were not lying about what the president said. "To be clear, Matt, Fox News has confirmed his choice of words in that meeting," she said.
For the record: Here are some pictures of Haiti's beaches. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Editor's note: This post originally mischaracterized Schlapp's relationship to Fox News. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.
Former chief strategist Stephen Bannon on Sunday issued an apology to Donald Trump Jr. for critical comments reported in Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. The president's son "is both a patriot and a good man," Bannon said, declaring himself "unwavering" in his support for President Trump, "the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus."
The apology alluded to Cold War conflict to declare Russians "duplicitous, cunning, and not our friends," though Bannon maintained there was "no collusion" between the Trump team and Russian election meddling attempts. The statement is similar to one multiple sources say Bannon planned to make before President Trump issued a statement vehemently attacking "Sloppy Steve" Bannon by claiming he has "lost his mind."
Wolff's book sees Bannon calling Trump Jr. "treasonous" and "unpatriotic" in connection to the campaign-era meeting he had with a Kremlin-linked lawyer. Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who has been indicted in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia probe, was also present at the meeting, and Bannon's Sunday statement said the negative remarks were actually aimed at him. Bonnie Kristian
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched an investigation into Kushner Companies, the real estate empire belonging to the family of Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
The previously unknown probe reportedly began this past May and focuses on the company's use of the EB-5 visa program, which awards green cards to immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in eligible U.S. businesses. It is not clear what investigators may believe was improper in Kushner Cos. use of the visa; a representative of the company denied all wrongdoing.
"Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals," the Times story says. "People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back."
Trump has long been known to begin his days with an early TV viewing session, usually featuring Fox & Friends, which he regularly live-tweets. His advisers have reportedly begged him to watch less, a plea that has fallen on very deaf ears if the Times story is correct. Were he not president, Trump's viewing habits would be less remarkable: The average American watches about four hours of television per day, and those over 65 (Trump is 71) average seven hours, which is reasonable if you are retired and not the most powerful person in the world.