As part of National Security Adviser John Bolton's full overhaul of the National Security Council, he's "leading the push to abolish the role of special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator," the top White House cybersecurity job, Politico reports, citing one current and two former U.S. officials. One of the former officials said there's a "60-40" chance the White House eliminates the job, potentially leaving the U.S. government rudderless heading into elections in which Russia is widely expected to meddle.
When it comes to cybersecurity, a second former official told Politico, Bolton's "not interested in it. He doesn't see the point in it. ... There's a serious concern on the [NSC] right now, particularly the [cyber team], of what the fate of their directorate is moving forward," and morale "is definitely low." The current cybersecurity coordinator, Rob Joyce, is returning to the National Security Agency, "in part because of frustration with how Bolton's team approaches cyber policy," Politico reports. "When Bolton arrived, he forced out homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, a cyber expert who supervised Joyce's team."
NSC spokesman Robert Palladino told Politico that "cyber is a key priority for the Trump administration." And if the coordinator position is eliminated, responsibility could shift to Bolton's deputy, Mira Ricardel, who reportedly supports eliminating the position, or Josh Steinman, a Michael Flynn protégé who reportedly has scant cybersecurity experience and is disliked by career staffers. Scrapping the job would also send a message to other countries "that the U.S. is taking the gas pedal off of cybersecurity as a key national security issue," warned former NSC cyber policy director Megan Stifel.
"The Obama administration was slow and ineffective in its response to Russian election interference in 2016," The Washington Post says in an editorial "But it is now on President Trump and his team to prepare for a new round of Kremlin cyberattacks — and this White House, too, is falling short." Peter Weber
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) didn't name President Trump directly in his remarks to Harvard Law School graduates on Wednesday, but with a dig about selling red hats, it was clear who the retiring senator was talking about.
Flake said the United States "may have hit rock bottom. This is it. If you have been wondering what the bottom looks like, this is what it looks like when you stress-test all of the institutions that undergird our constitutional democracy at the same time." The presidency has been "debased" by a "figure who seemingly has a bottomless appetite for destruction and division, and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works," Flake said. It's time for people to stop equating being "cruel" with making "America great," he said, adding, "to be clear, we did not become great – and will never be great — by indulging and encouraging our very worst impulses. It doesn't matter how many red caps you sell."
Flake has been one of the few Republicans in the Senate to go after Trump, and he told the graduates that there are "times when circumstances may call on you to risk your career in favor of your principles. But you, and your country, will be better for it. You can go elsewhere for a job, but you cannot go elsewhere for a soul." The country is divided, but "we need each other, and it is a scoundrel who would prosper politically by turning us against each other." Catherine Garcia
The way Rudy Giuliani has been running his mouth the last month, you'd think he was in constant communication with President Trump, but surprise! They haven't spoken in weeks.
Giuliani, one of Trump's newest lawyers, told BuzzFeed News that the last time they talked was "a couple of weeks ago," and "people from our office" are the ones communicating with Trump. When asked how often, he said, "Talking, correspondence? A couple of times a week." Giuliani has appeared on countless TV news programs over the last month, and given dozens of interviews with media outlets, where he intimated that he knew exactly what Trump was thinking and chatted with him often.
The Washington Post also interviewed Giuliani on Wednesday morning, with the article running under the headline, "In reversal, Giuliani now says Trump should do interview with Mueller team." Giuliani told BuzzFeed News, "no, I didn't say that," then admitted he did say that, but "that doesn't mean we've reversed though. That's always been true." On Tuesday, however, Giuliani told The Wall Street Journal that if investigators told Trump he "had to" sit for an interview, "the answer would have to be no." Catherine Garcia
Jessica Walter says she has to 'let go of being angry' at Arrested Development co-star Jeffrey Tambor
In an interview with The New York Times, Arrested Development's Jessica Walter said that she has to "let go of being angry" at her co-star, Jeffrey Tambor, publicly commenting for the first time on an on-set incident where Tambor blew up at her.
Tambor mentioned the incident during an earlier interview with The Hollywood Reporter, after he was fired from Transparent over allegations of sexual misconduct (he denies the accusations). In tears, Walter said that "in almost 60 years of working, I've never had anybody yell at me like that on a set and it's hard to deal with, but I'm over it now. I just let it go right here, for The New York Times."
Co-stars Jason Bateman, David Cross, and Tony Hale jumped to defend Tambor, with Bateman telling the Times that a lot of performers are "difficult" and Cross saying it's "important" for people to know Tambor "learned from the experience and he's listening and learning and growing." Hale said that everyone has "had moments," but Walter spoke up, saying, "but not like that, not like that. That was bad." Co-star Alia Shawkat supported Walter, saying that just because someone acts out on set it "doesn't mean it's acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently." Arrested Development's fifth season debuts on Netflix May 29. Read the entire interview at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating allegations of sexual assault against former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The investigation is "in an advanced stage," a Manhattan DA representative said. The probe is looking into allegations of sexual abuse made by actresses Paz de la Huerta and Lucia Evans. Prosecutors are examining claims that Weinstein "lured or induced any women to travel across state lines for the purpose of committing a sex crime."
Weinstein has denied ever engaging in nonconsensual sex acts. The movie mogul has been accused of wide-ranging abuse by more than 50 women. The allegations range from sexual harassment to rape, and many women in the entertainment industry say they felt coerced or manipulated by him.
Weinstein's attorney has met with prosecutors "in an attempt to dissuade them from proceeding," reports NBC News. New York Police Department officials are reportedly ready to arrest Weinstein if they receive approval from Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Summer Meza
Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he is now recommending that Trump sit for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
"I guess I'd rather do the interview. It gets it over with it, it makes my client happy," said Giuliani. “The safe course you hear every lawyer say is don't do the interview, and that's easy to say in the abstract. That's much harder when you have a client who is the president of the United States and wants to be interviewed."
Giuliani has flip-flopped when it comes to whether or not Trump should grant an interview to Mueller, who is leading the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference during the 2016 election. On Tuesday, Giuliani said that "the answer would have to be no," but apparently the president's view on the matter has changed several times as well.
Trump agrees with attorneys who advise him against an interview, said Giuliani, then "he goes right back to, 'why shouldn't I?'" Giuliani told the Post that Trump was frustrated but optimistic: "His tweeting has been effective" in discrediting the investigation, said Giuliani. "He feels the public opinion is turning in his favor."
Even though Trump is apparently unconcerned, Giuliani worried that investigators would accuse him of committing perjury in an interview. "They may have a different version of the truth than we do," he said. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza
President Trump on Wednesday said that the U.S. should revoke aid to any country that allows immigrants to come to America. During a roundtable meeting about immigration loopholes and gang violence, Trump offered what he claimed would be a simple solution.
"We're going to work out something where every time somebody comes in from a certain country, we're going to deduct a rather large amount of money from what we give them in aid," said Trump to cheers, "if we give them aid at all."
Trump said that many countries encourage citizens who commit crimes or are involved in gangs to go to the U.S. "They'll let you think they're trying to stop this — they're not trying to stop it," he said. "They don't want the people that we're getting in that country."
The president additionally doubled down on a statement from his last roundtable meeting on immigration. Trump was criticized for calling immigrants involved in gang violence "animals," but he repeated himself on Wednesday. "I called them animals the other day and I was met with rebuke," said Trump. "They said, 'They're people.' They're not people. These are animals." Summer Meza
After a year-long background check, President Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, has at last been granted permanent security clearance, a White House insider told The New York Times on Wednesday. Kushner was among a number of administration officials who had his temporary highest-level security clearance downgraded earlier this year.
The White House official who spoke about Kushner's status claimed that the long process was not unusual for someone "who has a complicated financial history and many foreign contacts," as the Times writes. And while Kushner is reportedly being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — CNN reports he sat for a seven-hour interview with investigators in April — that probe apparently did not play a part in his clearance status.