Chris Cuomo started his CNN show Wednesday night by dropping a truth bomb. "Gotta say it," he said. "The relationship between the press and the White House sucks. Sorry, but that is the truth."
Moments later, Cuomo introduced his first guest — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. After rolling footage of her declaring that she has more credibility than the press, Cuomo dove right in, bringing up the Trump Tower meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with Russians in the summer of 2016. Sanders had told the press that President Trump did not dictate a statement Trump Jr. later released about the meeting, but a letter sent to Special Counsel Robert Mueller in January by two Trump attorneys said he did.
Cuomo asked about her statement that contradicted the letter, and Sanders responded, "This is a legal matter and the appropriate individuals to answer questions on a legal matter are the outside counsel, and I would direct you to them." Cuomo queried why what she said would be a legal matter, and Sanders repeated that "this is in a legal process, and I would refer you to the appropriate venue to answer questions on a legal back and forth, and that is the president's outside counsel." He kept on pressing, and she kept on repeating the same response, until finally viewers had to check to make sure they hadn't accidentally hit the rewind button on their remote. Watch the video below, and try not to get déjà vu. Catherine Garcia
President Trump has to date shed roughly 40 of the staffers under his employ when he took office last January, many of them advisers he himself appointed before later giving them the ax. On Thursday, he reiterated his belief that shakeups are good, The New York Times reports, saying, "There will always be change. I think you want change."
Even the strait-laced Times acknowledged Trump's remarks landed "ominously," given that the president fired his secretary of state via Twitter just two days ago. "I want to also see different ideas," Trump said, per the Times.
The list of high-level aides who could be on the chopping block is ... extensive:
John F. Kelly, his second chief of staff, and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, are on thin ice, having angered the president by privately saying "no" to the boss too often. White House insiders predict that Mr. Trump could decide to fire one or both of them soon.
Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, and David J. Shulkin, the secretary of veterans affairs, have both embarrassed the president by generating scandalous headlines. Mr. Carson could be axed over an eye-popping $31,000 dining set, and Mr. Shulkin might be replaced over a 10-day, $122,000 European trip with his wife.
And then there's Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose original sin — the decision to recuse himself from oversight of the Russia investigation — made him the regular target of presidential ire. The attorney general has threatened to resign at least once, but has more recently indicated his determination to resist Mr. Trump's obvious desire for him to leave his post at the Justice Department. [The New York Times]
After making the rounds at some women-centric events this spring, Hillary Clinton may be ready to re-enter the world of politics. Politico reported Thursday that Clinton is gearing up to launch a new political group called Onward Together — a riff on her campaign slogan, "Stronger Together" — as soon as next week.
It's been just six months since Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, and Politico reports she's spent much of the time recruiting donors and executives for her forthcoming political group. Clinton's spokeswoman declined to comment to Politico on the story, but the magazine cites "multiple people close to" Clinton as well as "people familiar with [Onward Together's] planning."
The board of directors for the group has already filled out, Politico says, and the mission would apparently "focus on sending money to other organizations at a time that Democratic donors are largely unsure about how they should be spending their cash." Read more about Clinton's potential next move at Politico. Kimberly Alters
In his first press conference in six months, President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday got into a sparring match with CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Trump refused to respond to repeated questions from Acosta because he works for CNN, which on Tuesday published an article detailing a report from U.S. officials that Russia might possess incriminating information that could potentially be used to blackmail the president-elect.
While multiple news organizations — including CNN — stated that the corresponding intelligence dossier contained unverified information, BuzzFeed News on Tuesday night chose to publish the document in full. The dossier was allegedly provided by a British intelligence source that U.S. officials deem credible, but was not published by CNN with its initial report as its contents were unconfirmed. Still, by breaking the news, CNN apparently drew Trump's ire, and the news organization issued a statement Wednesday after Trump's press conference to stand by its "carefully sourced reporting":
CNN's response to Donald Trump: pic.twitter.com/5PljS7L0WS
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) January 11, 2017
And as Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Epstein noted, Trump wasn't the only target of CNN's statement. Kimberly Alters
BuzzFeed, meet the CNN bus https://t.co/Y16NqeTwEy
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) January 11, 2017
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday addressed Donald Trump's controversial comments regarding Mexican-American judge Gonzalo Curiel, calling them the "textbook definition of racism" and "absolutely unacceptable." Last week, Trump called for Curiel to recuse himself from a lawsuit against Trump University due to his Mexican heritage, saying Curiel could not fairly rule against him due to his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I disavow those comments," Ryan said. "I don't think they're right-headed, and the thinking behind [them] is something I don't even personally relate to." Ryan said last week he would vote for Trump, and echoed that message Tuesday, saying that while he disagreed strongly with Trump's comments on Curiel, he did not think Hillary Clinton was the way to "solve these problems."
Donald Trump may be the GOP's sole remaining candidate for the presidential nomination, but that doesn't mean top Republicans are full-throatedly embracing him. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced in a Facebook post Friday that he would not vote for Trump because he has not shown the "temperament or strength of character" required in a president. He also added that Trump is "not a consistent conservative" and "has not displayed a respect for the Constitution." Bush, once considered the frontrunner of the GOP primary race, clarified that he would not be casting a vote for Hillary Clinton, though he did say he would advocate for down-ballot Republicans.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also announced Friday that he could not "in good conscience" support Trump's bid for the White House. Graham, who dropped out of the presidential race in December, has been famously hard on Trump. Trump promptly issued a response to the senator: "While I will unify the party, Lindsey Graham has shown himself to be beyond rehabilitation. And like the voters who rejected him, so will I!"
Bush and Graham join House Speaker Paul Ryan as top-tier Republicans who have withheld their support from Trump. Bush's father and brother, both former presidents, have also declined to issue an endorsement of Trump — though Bush 43's former vice president, Dick Cheney, told CNN on Friday that he has always supported the GOP nominee and would do the same for Trump. Kimberly Alters