July 17, 2017

One of President Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, made the rounds on Sunday's political talk shows to defend Donald Trump Jr. over his June 2016 meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and other Russians apparently promising information on Hillary Clinton that would help Trump Sr. win the presidential election. On ABC's This Week, Sekulow suggested there was nothing "nefarious" about Trump Jr.'s meeting because of the Secret Service. "Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in," he said. "The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me."

Unless Trump, the candidate, was at the meeting, too, the Secret Service would not have done any such thing, the Secret Service noted Sunday afternoon. "Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June 2016," agency spokesman Mason Brayman said in a statement. "Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time." The meeting, at Trump Tower, also included Jared Kushner, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, publicist Rob Goldstone, and at least two other people.

Sekulow, on ABC and other networks, insisted that President Trump was unaware of the meeting; on CNN's State of the Union, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was skeptical of that claim, telling Jake Tapper, "Frankly, it's a little bit unbelievable that neither the son or the son-in-law ever shared that information with their dad, the candidate." Also evidently skeptical of Sekulow's assertions was Fox News host Chris Wallace, who grilled Trump's lawyer on Fox News Sunday over who's paying the president's legal bills (Sekulow said he doesn't know) and why seeking opposition research from a foreign power is not illegal (it isn't, legally, a "thing of value," Sekulow said):

In the Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows President Trump with a 36 percent approval rating, respondents said by a 63 percent to 26 percent margin that it was inappropriate for Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort to meet with Veselnitskaya and the other Russians last June. Peter Weber

11:20 a.m. ET

North Korean diplomat Choe Kang Il traveled to Finland Sunday for negotiations with American and South Korean representatives, notably including former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens. The talks are seen as a preliminary step toward the direct meeting President Trump has said he will have with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this spring.

The South Korean foreign ministry compared the Finland negotiations to the indirect and secretive "Track 2" dialogue Pyongyang maintains with Washington. Choe declined to comment on his agenda. Bonnie Kristian

11:13 a.m. ET
Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin faces seven challengers as voters go to the polls Sunday, but he is expected to easily win a fourth term for another six years in office. Advance polling suggests Putin boasts about 70 percent support, though critics say Russian elections are a pseudo-democratic exercise with a predetermined outcome.

"I voted for Putin," said Ust-Djeguta resident Lyubov Kachan, a teacher, in an interview with Reuters. "If anything is not going our way right now, that's thanks to the world which treats us so negatively, while he is trying to stand up to that."

Apathetic voters are under increased pressure to turn out this year, with some employers asking workers to provide proof that they voted. The mayor of the city of Yekaterinburg told The Associated Press officials "received orders 'from higher up' to make sure the presidential vote turnout is over 60 percent." Bonnie Kristian

10:10 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader hosted this week's show, and he was joined in the cold open by frequent SNL host John Goodman.

On the set with Anderson Cooper (Alex Moffat), Hader's former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and Goodman's fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commiserated about the chaos in the Trump administration. "It's just crazy how one day you're the CEO of Exxon, a 50-billion dollar company," Tillerson muses, "and the next you get fired by a man who used to sell steaks in the mail."

Kate McKinnon also showed up as Attorney General Jeff Sessions reflecting on the Friday firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. "I'm just a simple man who wanted to make things bad for immigrants," Sessions says, "and now here I am taking away the pension of a Christian white. It ain't right!" Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:46 a.m. ET
Justin Tallis/Getty Images

Cambridge Analytica, the data firm suspended by Facebook Friday over violations of the network's privacy policies, was in contact with Lukoil, a Russian oil company, in 2014 and 2015, The New York Times reported Saturday. When questioned last month, the head of the firm's British parent company denied knowledge of any business ties to Russia. A Lukoil executive told the Times the meetings "involved a promotional campaign with local soccer teams," denying any "contracts were signed."

Also Saturday, The Observer of London reported the company harvested 50 million American Facebook profiles for electioneering, a major data breach. "We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles and built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons," said former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie. "That was the basis the entire company was built on." Wylie attended the meeting with Lukoil and said the oil company repeatedly asked about "political targeting in America."

Cambridge Analytica was a Trump campaign contractor in 2016, though Facebook did not mention President Trump in its suspension announcement. Bonnie Kristian

8:17 a.m. ET

Fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe created memos documenting his conversations with President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, The Associated Press reports. He has given the files to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and has also granted Mueller an interview about the circumstances surrounding Comey's ouster last year.

Comey also made private memos detailing his interactions with Trump and leaked them to the media via a friend. Axios reports the McCabe memos corroborate Comey's account of his own firing. "I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey," McCabe said in his statement on his Friday firing.

Trump, meanwhile, posted a series of tweets on McCabe, Comey, and Mueller Saturday evening and Sunday morning. He accused McCabe of fabricating the memos after the fact:

Trump also reiterated his accusation that McCabe abused his position in exchange for donations to his wife's Democratic congressional campaign; remade his case that the Mueller inquiry is a "WITCH HUNT" and investigators instead should probe the FBI, the State Department, and Hillary Clinton; and cited Fox & Friends for an allegation that Comey lied under oath when testifying to Congress.

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout. Bonnie Kristian

March 17, 2018
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers are pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a second special counsel besides Robert Mueller, this one to investigate the FBI and the Justice Department for how they handled the 2016 election. Of particular interest is surveillance of a Trump campaign aide and the probe into then-candidate Hillary Clinton's email server.

"The FBI and the Department of Justice were corrupt, in my view, when it came to handling the email investigation of Clinton," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued on Fox News in support of a new counsel. "And the entire FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant application process was abused."

Graham was referring to the allegation in the memo compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that the FBI acquired FISA permission to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page based significantly on the Steele dossier, whose creation was partially funded by a Clinton campaign lawyer, without telling the court the source of the information. The counter-memo released by House Democrats from the committee says the FISA court was properly informed of the dossier's political provenance.

Graham sent a letter to Sessions Thursday asking for an additional special counsel, and other House members including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (S.C.) have made the same request.

A Justice Department inspector general investigation is already underway, but that has not satisfied President Trump and many of his allies. Bonnie Kristian

March 17, 2018
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

President Trump's personal attorney, John Dowd, said Saturday it is time for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling to end.

"I pray that Acting Attorney General [Rod] Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by [fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe's boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier," Dowd wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast.

Dowd first stated he was officially speaking on the president's behalf, but then reversed himself, saying he was only giving his personal view. President Trump reportedly attempted to fire Mueller last summer before he was talked out of the plan, and Mueller reportedly has obtained memos about that decision. Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads