President Trump's Thursday morning tweets included a thank you note to California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for deploying the National Guard to the Mexican border (where they will not work to detain immigrants or refugees) and good luck wishes to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who faces a tough confirmation hearing to be secretary of state Thursday morning. But he also seemed determined to set the record straight, first on a New York Times report that he moved to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in December and then on his Wednesday morning threat to fire missiles at Syria.
If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him. Just more Fake News from a biased newspaper!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
The New York Times report on Mueller cited eight White House officials and people close to Trump, and while Trump insists he has the right to fire Mueller himself, that's an open legal question. According to The Washington Post and its 21 sources, Trump's aides were shocked at his tweeted threat to send "nice, new, and 'smart!'" missiles into Syria, but they "quickly regrouped and, together with Pentagon brass, continued readying Syria options for Trump as if nothing had happened." And last week, Syrian Kurdish officials warned that the Islamic State is entrenched and gaining strength in its remaining pockets along the Syria side of the Iraq border. Peter Weber
On Monday morning, 23 people were injured after a "lava bomb" hit their tour boat off the Big Island, Hawaiian fire officials said.
An explosion sent molten lava flying through the air, and it burned through the boat's roof and damaged its railing. The boat returned to Wailoa Harbor, with 13 people having to be hospitalized and the rest treated at the scene. One of the victims is a woman in her 20s, who is in serious condition with a fractured femur, fire officials said. Witnesses told CNN they saw passengers getting off the boat with burns and gashes on their legs.
The Kilauea Volcano has been erupting since early May, and has destroyed dozens of homes. The boat was operated by Lava Ocean Tours, Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources said. Passengers pay $220 for tours that show off the lava as it flows into the ocean. Catherine Garcia
While many other Fox News personalities were critical of President Trump's joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Tucker Carlson decided to switch things up by accusing Mexico of sending immigrants to the United States to vote in elections.
Tucker Carlson says that Mexico has been more successful at interfering in US elections and does it more routinely than Russia by "packing our electorate" pic.twitter.com/vYk0jyVFUZ
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) July 16, 2018
"I don't think Russia is our close friend or anything like that," Carlson said during an appearance on The Five. "Of course they're trying to interfere in our affairs; they have for a long time. Many countries do, some more successfully than Russia, like Mexico, which is routinely interfering in our elections by packing our electorate."
Carlson said he "honestly" couldn't understand "why we need to believe that Russia is the primary issue of American political life. That seems kind of nuts to me." It's "totally fine" for people to disagree with Trump, he continued, "but the idea that where you are on Russia is the defining question, that's kind of demented actually, because it's like No. 115 on the list of real concerns, at least in my mind. Maybe I'm the demented one." Yeah, maybe. Catherine Garcia
On Erin Burnett OutFront Monday night, the CNN host was down a panelist, as Michael Anton, President Trump's former top national security spokesman, bowed out following Trump's much-derided press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Michael Anton was going to be here ... he canceled, and he knows I'm going to tell you this, because he said he could not defend the president on his actions today." - Erin Burnett explains the absence of Trump's fmr. National Security Council spokesman https://t.co/VYnxxVD4Je pic.twitter.com/nveQk3mvTy
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) July 16, 2018
Burnett was joined by journalist Julia Ioffe and CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon, but noted there was a person missing. "Michael Anton was going to be here," she said, but "he canceled, and he knows I'm going to tell you this, because he said he could not defend the president on his actions today." Anton, using a pseudonym, was behind the essay "The Flight 93 Election," which tried to convince conservatives wary of Trump to vote for him anyway because "2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die."
During his joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Trump questioned American intelligence agencies and their findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, sharing that Putin "said it's not Russia...I don't see any reason why it would be."
UPDATE 10:50 p.m. ET: In a statement to The Hill, Anton said he canceled his appearance because CNN's coverage of Trump's press conference with Putin was "atrocious." Anton said he "knew whatever I said, CNN would try to use me as a cudgel with which to bash the president." He also claimed CNN "threatened to cite that withdrawal on air to bash the president, and that's exactly what they did. It's clear I made the right decision." Catherine Garcia
In an interview Monday with Fox News' Chris Wallace, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it is "ridiculous" to believe Russia could influence Americans from so far away.
"Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States — do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans?" he said. Russia has "never interfered with the internal affairs of the United States, let alone its elections," he added. On Friday, the Department of Justice announced indictments of 12 Russian intelligence operatives accused of hacking emails from Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign employees, and when Wallace tried to hand Putin a copy of the indictment, he refused to take it.
Putin also denied being "this kind of a strongman that I'm being portrayed," and told Wallace that no one in Russia gave any thought to President Trump before the election. "I don't want to insult President Trump when I say this — and I may come as rude — but before he announced he will run for presidency, he was of no interest for us," Putin said. Watch the interview — which gets testy at times — below. Catherine Garcia
President Trump coined a new term on Monday, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity that "nuclear warming" is the biggest issue the United States is facing.
Trump spoke with Hannity after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I know President Obama said global warming is our biggest problem and I would say that no, nuclear warming is our biggest problem, by a factor of about five million," Trump said. "The nuclear problem, we have to make sure, we have to be very careful, if you look at Russia and the United States, that's 90 percent of the nuclear weapons."
Putin is also "working on other countries," Trump said, and "wants to be very helpful with North Korea. We're doing well with North Korea. We have time, there's no rush, it's been going on for many years." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia
Fox News pundits are predicting a tough road ahead for President Trump as he deals with the fallout of his comments in Helsinki on Monday.
White House correspondent John Roberts said that the joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin would "cost the president dearly politically," noting that Trump is already "taking it on the chin" from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Host Shep Smith agreed that Trump would face an onslaught of criticism, and he expressed disbelief that "the president of the United States will not say he believes his own government over President Putin." Smith shut down Trump's suggestion that it was unclear whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election: "There's no question, none at all, from [Trump's] own employees, his own intelligence services, and members of his own party," he said. “Russia interfered in our 2016 election and is interfering in the democratic process right now."
The two reporters solemnly agreed with what Roberts called a "growing consensus": that "the president threw the United States under the bus." Watch Roberts' comments below, via Shareblue. Summer Meza
Wow, Fox's John Roberts says Putin summit will "cost [Trump] dearly," and that there is "consensus across this land... that [Trump] threw the United States under the bus." pic.twitter.com/d10mSefeFy
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) July 16, 2018
Just hours after President Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, the Justice Department revealed charges against a Russian citizen for conspiracy against the U.S.
Maria Butina, a Russian national living in Washington, D.C., was charged Monday with conspiracy to act as an unregistered Russian agent, per the DOJ's press release. She was arrested in D.C. on Sunday after allegedly working from 2015 until at least February 2017 to infiltrate American politics.
Butina apparently built close ties with the GOP through a gun rights organization, which sources say is the NRA, to advance Russia's interests in America, per the DOJ affadavit. She connected with politicians and candidates and even went to National Prayer Breakfasts, all under the direction of a high-level Russian official who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April, The Associated Press reports. Butina was supposed to be studying international relations in the U.S. on a student visa but was secretly reporting back to Moscow, per NPR.
In a statement, Butina's lawyer denied the charges, saying that "there is simply no indication of Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law in the United States," NPR says. The charges are not part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the 2016 election but are connected to a separate Russian intelligence operation, The New York Times reports. Kathryn Krawczyk