The White House has insisted repeatedly that it has "nothing to hide" in the face of multiple investigations into potential collusion with Russia — and the administration is apparently willing to put its man where its mouth is. President Trump's lawyers are contemplating enabling a direct sit-down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Politico reported Thursday, who is leading the probe into Russian election meddling and the Trump administration's potential ties to it.
"The White House believes such an interview could help Mueller wrap up the probe faster and dispel the cloud of suspicion over Trump," Politico explained. But putting the mercurial commander in chief in front of Mueller is a fraught gamble:
A meeting with Mueller could bring serious risks for Trump — exposing him to questions about everything from potential obstruction of justice over his firing of FBI Director James Comey to what Trump might know about Kremlin support for his presidential campaign.
But the official suggested that the White House has no reason to stonewall Mueller.
[...] But even if he has nothing to hide, Trump's unpredictable nature and willingness to bend the facts poses headaches for his legal team as it strategizes for a possible sit-down with Mueller. One angry or untrue statement could have devastating political and legal consequences for the president. [Politico]
Lying to Mueller or a member of his team would be illegal, Vox notes, though Trump said earlier this year that he was "100 percent" willing to testify under oath about the Russia scandal. Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, initially declined to comment to Politico on the story, but sent an email after the article was published saying it was "totally false!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" without directly identifying any false assertions.
Scott Pruitt used Bret Stephens' New York Times climate op-ed to justify withdrawing from the Paris Agreement
Back in April, The New York Times hired conservative columnist Bret Stephens from The Wall Street Journal as a contributor to its op-ed page. Stephens promptly started a kerfuffle at the Gray Lady when he centered his debut column around climate change; in it, he wrote, "Perhaps if there were less certitude about our climate future, more Americans would be interested in having a reasoned conversation about it."
In his column, titled "Climate of Complete Certainty," Stephens argued that much of the conclusions about climate change that pass "as accepted fact" are in fact "a matter of probabilities." In explaining President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday cited Stephens' column:
The New York Times was harshly criticized for surfacing Stephens' climate skepticism — or what The Week's Ryan Cooper referred to as Stephens' "breezy science denial-lite." Public editor Liz Spayd responded by defending the Times for providing readers with a "range of views." But observers were not impressed with Pruitt's use of Stephens' reasoning as a defense for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement; scan through some incredulous responses below. Kimberly Alters
This Democratic congressman is worried North Korea might smuggle nukes to America inside bales of weed
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman represents a western portion of the San Fernando Valley, which is located in Southern California. This is important, because you may have heard the Golden State has loosened its restrictions on the sale of marijuana and has generally been considered a bastion of bud in the nation.
As someone tasked with representing these constituents, then, Sherman should be knowledgeable about marijuana. Fret not, Valley-dwellers, because apparently he has been so thorough in his research that he is even aware of weed's potential to be exploited for nefarious wartime provocations by our enemies. He revealed as much in a pair of tweets Wednesday night regarding his chosen discussion points for a classified briefing about North Korea with Vice President Mike Pence:
I raised two issues: No. Korea could smuggle nuke into U.S. rather than use ICBM. Could smuggle inside a bale of marijuana....(1/2)
— Rep. Brad Sherman (@BradSherman) April 27, 2017
...and might sell nukes to Iran, which has billions of hard currency. Waiting for answers...(2/2)
— Rep. Brad Sherman (@BradSherman) April 27, 2017
Improbably, Sherman is not the first U.S. congressman to voice this concern. In February, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told CNN's Brianna Keilar, "I can suggest to you that there are national security implications here for a porous border. We sometimes used to make the point that if someone wanted to smuggle in a dangerous weapon, even a nuclear weapon, into America, how would they do it? And the suggestion was made: Well, we'll simply hide it in a bale of marijuana."
For the record, a bale of marijuana is generally considered to weigh but a few dozen pounds. The W54, one of the smallest nuclear warheads ever used by the U.S., weighed around 50 pounds. Kimberly Alters
Though it was previously known the FBI operated one such site for 13 days before closing it down, using the website to install tracking malware on visitors' computers, the new documents show the scale of the project was much larger, comprising about half of all dark web child pornography sites.
More than 100 cases have been prosecuted in connection to the first site the FBI was known to operate, and in several of those trials judges have deemed evidence collected in this manner inadmissible. "The courts have been divided in their rulings on whether the FBI went too far," notes The Seattle Times in a report on one such case, "and prosecutors and defense lawyers say the case is almost certainly headed to the U.S. Supreme Court." Bonnie Kristian
Congressional Republicans have avoided getting behind their Democratic counterparts' calls for an investigation of Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia — but not because they're not concerned about the charges. The Daily Beast reported Friday that Republican congressional staff said "Trump and his aides' connections to Russian officials and business interests haven't gone unnoticed and are concerning" to GOP lawmakers.
The Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and, at the first presidential debate Monday, Trump avoided expressing agreement with the U.S. intelligence community that Russian government hackers were behind the Democratic National Committee break-ins. In August, Trump's top adviser, Paul Manafort, resigned over questions about his ties to pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians. Last week, it was reported that U.S. intelligence officials are probing another Trump adviser for alleged ties to the Kremlin.
Yet, Trump likely won't face the scrutiny his advisers have. The Daily Beast reported that although GOP lawmakers apparently reviewed Democrats' "written requests to the FBI that it investigate Trump before they were made public," they didn't sign on, possibly in the interest of avoiding a probe into their party's nominee.
This lack of bipartisan support leaves Democrats unable to issue subpoenas for witnesses — and generally less able to investigate the Republican nominee.
Congressman Alan Grayson ran a hedge fund that encouraged buying 'when there's blood in the streets'
After failing to win re-election as a Florida Representative in 2010, Alan Grayson started a hedge fund in 2011 — a spot on his resume that raised eyebrows when he was re-elected in 2012. While Grayson's role running a hedge fund as a sitting member of the House has already led to an investigation by the House Committee on Ethics, emails obtained by The New York Times show the extent to which Grayson's jobs were intertwined "and how he promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business."
Grayson's hedge fund, which until recently had operations in the Cayman Islands, is questionable as well. Grayson has reportedly boasted about traveling to "every country" in the world while creating investment strategies that took advantage of companies suffering because of economic or political turbulence.
[A] hedge fund marketing document cited a quote attributed to an early member of the Rothschild banking family in advising that "the time to buy is when there's blood in the streets."
Mr. Grayson defended his approach. "What creates the opportunity is when people overreact to something bad happening," he said.
At least some of Mr. Grayson's global travel has been paid for by the United States government, congressional records show. Mr. Grayson has traveled in official congressional delegations to Finland, Iraq, Kuwait, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, according to a tally of those records by LegiStorm, a website that assembles data on Congress. He has also traveled to Israel on an official trip paid for by a private group, according to LegiStorm. [The New York Times]
According to House rules, lawmakers are not allowed to hold outside jobs that make more than $27,495, although Grayson has said he didn't report any earned income from the fund despite some investors that would have been paying management fees. Read the full report in The New York Times.
Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Grayson ran his hedge fund during his 2009-2011 years representing Florida's 8th congressional district. Grayson began the hedge fund in 2011, after he had left Congress and before his 2012 re-election. Jeva Lange
CNN, the 'most trusted name in news,' asked Katy Perry and Ashton Kutcher for help with its debate questions
CNN has the answer to the most burning of questions ahead of tonight's Democratic debate: What would Ashton Kutcher ask the candidates? Turns out, the star of Dude, Where's My Car? really wants to know about driverless cars.
"During your presidency, you will be faced with a robotic revolution — for example, driverless cars and semitrucks — as machines take skilled and unskilled jobs from Americans. This will further hollow out the middle class and divide society. What do you propose we do as a nation to bridge the gap without stifling innovation? What will you do as president to maintain a country where everyone has upward mobility?" [CNN]
Kutcher isn't the only celebrity that the self-proclaimed "most trusted name in news" asked for input. CNN also gathered material from Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Shonda Rhimes, Sir Elton John, Montel Williams and Melissa Etheridge, to name a few. The results, CNN says, are "thought-provoking." Judge for yourself by reading the full list at CNN. Becca Stanek
Some coal mining companies have found a way to game the system in Washington, D.C. Because much mining is done on federal lands, coal companies are required to pay royalties to the government for land use. However, those payments aren't a flat fee; they're a percentage of the money made from the coal the land produces. So coal miners create subsidiary companies to which they "sell" their coal at a discounted rate — which lowers their royalty fees — and then resell the coal at market value later on.
Coal companies are already the beneficiaries of numerous federal subsidies in the form of grants, direct monetary transfers, loan guarantees, and assistance with cleanup following environmental damage. Bonnie Kristian