Robert Mueller is reportedly digging into a meeting between Michael Flynn and a notoriously pro-Russia congressman
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election has turned its attention to an alleged meeting between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and pro-Russia Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), NBC News reports. The meeting reportedly occurred in September 2016 and was also attended by Flynn's son, among other people.
As NBC notes, "Mueller's interest in the nature of Flynn and Rohrabacher's discussion marks the first known time a member of Congress could be wrapped into the investigation."
On Sunday, NBC News reported that Mueller already has enough evidence to indict Flynn, who resigned from his position as national security adviser less than a month into the Trump administration after apparently lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia, and failing to register as an agent of the Turkish government.
For his part, Rohrabacher has long been viewed as a friend of Russia. In 2012, the FBI reportedly warned Rohrabacher that Russian spies were actively trying to recruit him. And in May, The Washington Post published audio of a conversation in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Republican lawmakers, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." A spokesman for McCarthy initially denied the exchange ever occurred, but eventually told the Post that it was "a failed attempt at humor." Kelly O'Meara Morales
First lady Melania Trump's unannounced visit to Texas to visit migrant children locked up in detention centers was "odd" given that "the architect of their despair is her husband, who took them from their parents," Chris Cuomo said on CNN Thursday night. "But then it got bizarro" when she wore a jacket screaming "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" to the plane. "I don't care what the first lady wears," he added, but the message was galling and the explanations for why she wore it make absolutely no sense.
"Now, something that makes perfect sense," Cuomo said. "Melania did not go to a facility with young kids. No toddlers, infants, preschoolers." Why not? Visiting teenagers "wouldn't be as shocking, or as troubling, and she had cameras with her and around her, and they don't want you to see the reality," he said. "They don't want you to see the kids crying, to get a feel for their fear and the worries of those who are overwhelmed by this situation, one the president created to make a point — a point that has blown up in his face and forced him to do what he has never done: to back off. But please, don't be fooled — this is far from over."
Cuomo took apart Trump's argument that arresting all migrants is necessary, then he circled back to the young kids, unable to see their moms or even their lawyers, scared and isolated. "I can't believe we aren't better than this," Cuomo signed. Watch below. Peter Weber
“I can’t believe we aren’t better than this," says @ChrisCuomo.
“Kids taken from their parents, scattered across the country, crowded into tight spaces, overwhelmed staff, the military building camps?... This is a recipe for disaster " #CuomoPrimeTime https://t.co/c6KDG1V36I pic.twitter.com/FitnIUczjW
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) June 22, 2018
White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is the main architect of President Trump's hard-line immigration policy, and according to several accounts — including his own — he reveled in the incarceration of migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, viewing it as a tactical policy success. The public was so repulsed by the policy, however, that Trump folded.
"The backlash over the policy has opened cracks in Miller's support network on Capitol Hill and among Republicans both inside and outside the White House, who have viewed the separation of migrant families as a huge political and policy misstep for the White House — and, for some, as a moral lapse," Politico reports. One outside White House adviser has called Miller a Nazi and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) urged Trump to fire him on Thursday.
So, will Miller be the scapegoat for Trump's babies-in-cages fiasco? Probably not.
First, Miller managed to keep a low profile while his "zero tolerance" policy became intolerable, and while he's the brains of the policy, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen became its public face.
Second, the 32-year-old adviser has "proved himself to be a deft operator in a White House known for backbiting," and he's "also well-liked inside the White House," Politico says, citing staffers. "Chief of Staff John Kelly, a like-minded immigration hawk, even had Miller over to his house for Thanksgiving last fall." Trump like him, too, in part because Miller puts in 18-hour work days and flatters Trump effusively.
Third, Trump agrees with Miller on immigration, and despite his embarrassing cave, locking up children "succeeded in shifting public debate so that the administration's fallback position — jailing migrant kids indefinitely with their parents while they wait for court dates — now seems like a more humane option," Politico notes.
Finally, EPA chief Scott Pruitt still has a job, so there's clearly a limit to Trump's responsiveness to public opinion. Peter Weber
Some people have trouble recognizing today's United States, "but for some residents of New Jersey, the united state they thought they knew might never have existed at all," Stephen Colbert said Thursday night. "So tonight, The Late Show takes a look at a small civil war between the north, the south, and the — the middle part."
New Jersey lived steadily if unhappily between its two warring factions, North Jersey and South Jersey, for 250 years, until new Gov. Phil Murphy (D) roiled the state by introducing the concept of Central Jersey. Colbert interviewed Murphy, who claims to be from this "mystical kingdom" of Central Jersey, but he was no help in settling the question. So Colbert turned to "the chief justice of the Garden State," Jon Stewart, who rendered his definitive judgment — and also shared some other opinions about the region. Watch below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert questions Melania Trump's very tone-deaf jacket, Scott Pruitt's $1,600 'tactical pants'
President Trump's "pro-baby snatching agenda" story "took another weird turn" Thursday when the White House sent its "most high-profile detainee, Melania Trump," to visit child detention centers in Texas, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "When I heard that she was doing this, I thought, 'Okay, this is what first ladies often do.' You know, you go to a troubled area, they see the children, they show that we care — you can't mess that up. Guess what? I spoke too soon." Colbert said he initially assumed the photos had to be fakes, but no, "on her way to show that she cares, Melania wore a jacket that says: 'I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?' That's what they settled on? What was her first choice, a jacket that says 'WOMP WOMP'?"
The first lady's spokeswoman said "there was no hidden message" on the jacket, and Colbert agreed: "It's definitely not hidden — it's right on the back. And I'm gonna guess this is one message she did not steal from Michelle Obama." He wondered "how many people would get fired for this at a normal White House," then soberly answered the jacket's question: "We do."
Melania Trump isn't the only one in the Trump administration making questionable wardrobe choices. Among the $4.6 million in taxpayer money EPA chief Scott Pruitt has spent on security, April's expenditures include $1,600 for "tactical pants" and another $700 for "tactical polo shirts." In total, Pruitt's office spent $24,115 on tactical clothing and body armor in seven separate orders in 2018, The Intercept found, plus $88,603 on radios and accessories. If you don't know what "tactical pants" are, or why Pruitt used your money to buy eight pairs at $200 a pop, The Late Show suggests it's all about the pockets. Watch below. Peter Weber
European Union counterpunches with $3.3 billion in new U.S. tariffs, and China dials up the rhetoric
The European Union retaliated against President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs Friday with tariffs on about $3.3 billion worth of American goods, including bourbon, orange juice, peanut butter, and motorcycles. The tariffs, mostly 25 percent, are designed in part to "make noise" by targeting politically important states like Kentucky, Florida, and Wisconsin, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said. The EU implemented the tariffs a week earlier than expected, "a signal that the EU is striking back and taking this seriously," said economist Holger Schmieding at Berenberg Bank in London.
The EU is just region counterpunching against the Trump administration's tariffs. Turkey is targeting U.S. products and India has announced tariffs on 29 U.S. products, including steel and iron, almonds, walnuts, and chickpeas. Trump is also looking at new tariffs on auto imports, opening a new front in the trade war. The big trade conflagration, however, is with China. The U.S. will start imposing new levies on $34 billion in Chinese goods on July 6, with $16 billion to come later and then up to $400 billion more; China vows immediate tariffs on soybeans and other agricultural products. By the first week in July, $75 billion in U.S. products will be hit by new foreign tariffs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's John Murphy.
"We've never seen anything like this," at least not since the 1930s, said Mary Lovely, an economist at Syracuse University. Trump is wagering that his tariffs will inflict more pain than they cause, forcing trade partners to capitulate. China, which has started fashioning itself as the global defender of free trade, is starting to escalate its rhetoric, too. "We oppose the act of extreme pressure and blackmail by swinging the big stick of trade protectionism," China's Commerce Ministry said Thursday. An editorial Friday in the state-run China Daily newspaper called the protectionist "trade crusade of Trump and his trade hawks" a self-defeating "symptom of paranoid delusions." Peter Weber
The Trump administration says 500 of 2,300 child migrants are reunited with their parents, but confusion reigns
Of the more than 2,300 migrant children the Trump administration separated from their families since May, about 500 have been reunited with their parents, a senior Trump administration official told The Associated Press Thursday. Federal agencies are working to set up a centralized family-reunification center in Port Isabel, Texas, the official said, and it isn't clear how many of the 500 children are still being detained with their families. In fact, while President Trump says his "zero tolerance" policy remains in effect, there's widespread confusion over what that means.
In McAllen, Texas, for example, federal prosecutors unexpectedly declined to charge 17 parent immigrants on Thursday, with one saying "there was no prosecution sought" due to Trump's executive order aimed at keeping families together. West of McAllen, federal public defender Maureen Scott Franco said in a Thursday email seen by AP that going forward, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas "will no longer bring criminal charges against a parent or parents entering the United States if they have their child with them."
Deportees who arrived in Honduras on Thursday told Reuters that before their flight left from Texas, U.S. officials asked if any of them had children in detention, and the four who raised their hands were not put o the flight.
Reuniting families is "the ultimate goal," but "it is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter," said a spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department, which takes care of child migrants. At the same time, the Pentagon agreed Thursday to accommodate 20,000 immigrants on military bases in Texas and Arkansas, and the Trump administration went to federal court to seek permission to hold child migrants for more than 20 days, end state licensing requirements, and scrap other restrictions on detaining families. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, who oversees the so-called Flores settlement, rejected a similar request from the Obama administration in 2015. Peter Weber
Skye Savren-McCormick was a very important part of Hayden Hatfield Ryals' wedding, despite meeting each other for the first time just 48 hours before the big day.
Savren-McCormick, 3, lives in Ventura, California, and right before her first birthday, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. She needed a bone marrow transplant, and it turned out Ryals, then a 22-year-old Auburn University student, was a perfect match. Donors must remain anonymous for the first year after a transplant, and Ryals and Savren-McCormick's parents started sending letters and emails back and forth in 2017.
Ryals surprised the family when she asked Savren-McCormick to be her flower girl, but it almost didn't happen; the toddler was still on oxygen two months before Ryals' June 9 wedding. In May, the family received good news: she could go off the oxygen and received medical clearance to fly to Alabama. There, Ryals and the Savren-McCormicks met face-to-face for the first time. "I feel so connected to them, they're like family now," she said. Catherine Garcia