Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's memo was cited by the White House as the impetus for President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey — but apparently Rosenstein knew Comey was going to be axed before he even wrote the memo. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told reporters Thursday that Rosenstein made that admission in an earlier all-senators meeting about Comey.
"He did acknowledge that he learned Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo," McCaskill said, referring to Rosenstein's memo urging Trump to oust Comey. Trump muddied the White House's original story for Comey's abrupt firing last week when he told NBC's Lester Holt that he was going to fire Comey "regardless of recommendation," days after the White House had already said said Rosenstein's memo was the catalyst.
There has been no explanation offered yet as to why Rosenstein was asked to write a memo justifying a decision that Trump had already made — and was going to make with or without Rosenstein's blessing. Becca Stanek
The ghosts of James Buchanan and William Henry Harrison are feeling pretty good right now.
Professors from the University of Houston and Boise State University sent current and recent members of the Presidents & Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association a survey on presidential greatness, asking 170 historians to grade each president. In bad news for President Trump, he came in dead last, bumping Buchanan up a spot. Abraham Lincoln came out on top, followed by George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson, while Harrison joined Trump and Buchanan at the bottom.
The survey was last conducted in 2014, and this year, Barack Obama moved up 10 places, coming in eighth. Out of other modern presidents, George W. Bush ranked 30th, Bill Clinton 13th, George H.W. Bush 17th, and Ronald Reagan ninth. There was some consensus, with Trump ranking in the bottom five for Republican, Democratic, independent, liberal, conservative, and moderate historians, and he did win one category: "Most polarizing." Catherine Garcia
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now interested in President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's attempts during the presidential transition to get financing from foreign investors for his company, people familiar with the matter told CNN.
Kushner was a lead contact for foreign governments during the transition, and told congressional investigators he had "over 50 contacts with people from over 15 countries." Mueller had already been looking into Kushner's contacts with Russians, CNN reports, and during interviews held in January and February, his team asked Kushner about discussions he had with foreigners as he tried to get financing for the New York City office building 666 Fifth Ave., a Kushner Companies-backed property that is having financial difficulties.
CNN reports Kushner was asked about a meeting he had one week after the election with the chairman and executives of the Chinese company Anbang Insurance; they were close to finishing a deal to get Anbang Insurance to invest in 666 Fifth Ave., but talks imploded in March 2017, The New York Times has reported. Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, told CNN "there has not been a single question asked nor document sought on the 666 building or Kushner Companies deals." Catherine Garcia
Dozens of teenagers participated in a "lie-in" outside of the White House on Monday, calling for stricter gun laws and an end to school shootings like the massacre last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which left 17 dead and 15 injured.
The protest was organized by a group called Teens for Gun Reform; on Facebook, the organization said it wanted to "make a statement on the atrocities which have been committed due to the lack of gun control, and send a powerful message to our government that they must take action now." The teens stretched out on the sidewalk, remaining on the ground for just a few minutes, "in order to symbolize how quickly someone, such as the [Florida] shooter, is able to purchase a gun in America," the group said.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have also mobilized, and are planning a rally against school and gun violence, March for Our Lives, March 24 in Washington, D.C., with sister events across the United States. "We're going to have, in every major city, somewhere that people all across the country can go to," student Brendan Duff told NPR. Students "want to feel engaged, and they want to do something to help. And this is it." Catherine Garcia
On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 4-3 to approve a new congressional map created to erase partisan gerrymandering state Republicans set in 2010. The new boundaries, drawn by Stanford law professor Nate Persily, splits only 13 counties, from 28 counties in the old map, and appears to make the map generally more favorable for Democrats, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (For more details, read new rankings from Dave Wasserman at the Cook Political Report.) Under the old map, Republicans consistently won 13 of the 18 districts even as Democrats and Republicans voted in roughly equal proportions.
— David Beard (@dabeard) February 19, 2018
"But don't expect the map to end the battle," the Inquirer says, since Republicans said before the new map was even issued that they would challenge in federal court whatever the state high court approved. Republicans will likely argue that the court usurped the legislature's role in deciding political boundaries, but the U.S. Supreme Court already declined to hear that challenge, says election law expert Rick Hasen. "Bottom line: It is hard to see where Republicans go from here to successfully fight these maps." Also, he adds, "given Nate Persily's general reputation for fairness, I expect that these maps will be fair and comply with the requirements set out by the state Supreme Court."
The state Supreme Court also approved a new nomination calendar that keeps the May 15 primary election date. Peter Weber
"President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him: An indictment leveled against 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election had not accused him or anyone around him of wrongdoing," The New York Times reports. But "the president's mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate," and Trump then unleashed what The Washington Post calls "a defiant and error-laden tweetstorm that was remarkable even by his own combative standards."
On CNN's New Day, host Dave Briggs asked Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) about this, noting that Trump sent "12 tweets just about this indictment, but none pushing back on Russia, none suggesting how we might punish them or prevent it from happening again in 2018." Dent said "the Russians meddling in our election is well-known," and "I think the president has been very soft on Russia. His rhetoric, he's been very accommodating to Vladimir Putin."
It's time for Trump and his team "to step up and start fighting fire with fire," Dent said. "Maybe we should be sharing with the Russian people the corrupt nature of the Russian regime and how they've all profited. ... I can't, for the life of me, understand why the president is so reluctant to push back much harder on the Russians."
GOP Rep. Charlie Dent: "The Russians meddling in our election is well-known ... I think the President has been very soft on Russia" https://t.co/I5OgpPKjWK
— New Day (@NewDay) February 19, 2018
Dent also said he thinks after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, people "have had enough of this," and between stricter background checks and no guns for people on the no-fly list, "there are things we can do and should do."
"I do believe people ... have had enough of this," says GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of readiness for gun control. "There are things we can do and should do." https://t.co/eaF65Bl4wh
— New Day (@NewDay) February 19, 2018
When Britain's Daily Mail first published the allegations that then-White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter had been physically and verbally abusive to his two ex-wives, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whom Porter worked for as chief of staff, was quoted as saying "it's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man." A day later, after Porter resigned — reportedly against Hatch's urging — Hatch said he was "heartbroken" by the allegations and said "domestic violence in any form is abhorrent." Now, Hatch has sent letters of apology to the two wives, Jennie Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, CNN reported Sunday.
"It was a sincere apology for pain he may have caused us," Willoughby told CNN. In his letter, Hatch explained that he "was unaware of the nature of the article and was under the impression political enemies were mounting an attack against Rob, which is why he released the first statement to the White House," she said, and he "reiterated his explanation as to why his statement changed." Holderness said simply, "I appreciate his apology." Peter Weber
In the last four Winter Olympics, Team USA was either first or second in terms of medals won, but this year "the U.S. is struggling to keep up in the medal race," John Dickerson noted at CBS This Morning on Monday. The U.S. is currently No. 6 in total medals, with 10 medals, one behind the Russians — who are competing without some of their star athletes and without a country, due to doping-related bans.
The U.S is struggling to keep up in the medal race at the Winter Olympics. Team USA is tied for 6th place, with 10 medals overall. Norway leads with 26. It's a far cry from the 2014 Winter Games, when the U.S won the most medals. https://t.co/4wiHuTOYE4 pic.twitter.com/IO6pcSibUr
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 19, 2018
Norway is cleaning up, with 28 medals, including 11 golds, followed by Germany and Canada.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 19, 2018