April 26, 2019

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn isn't the only person who told Special Counsel Robert Mueller that President Trump unsuccessfully directed him to quash Mueller's investigation. According to Mueller's report, former Trump campaign manager and Trump "devotee" Corey Lewandowski also described at least two episodes in which Trump directed him to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "unrecuse" himself and hamstring Mueller, or else.

"Through a combination of missed opportunities and personal hesitation, Lewandowski never executed Trump's demand," The Washington Post recounts. "But the roughly month-long period in the summer of 2017 depicted in Mueller's report details repeated and escalating efforts by the president to stymie the Russia probe."

The timeline laid out in Mueller's report goes like this: On June 14, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Mueller was investigating Trump for obstruction of justice. Three days later, Trump called McGahn and told him "Mueller has to go"; McGahn refused to fire him. On June 19, Trump invited Lewandowski, then a lobbyist, to the Oval Office and told him to dictate a message for Sessions, who was to say publicly that Trump "hasn't done anything wrong" and he was limiting Mueller to "investigating election meddling for future elections."

Lewandowski set up a June 20 meeting with Sessions, Sessions had to cancel, and Lewandowski decided to have a White House official, Rick Dearborn, deliver the message to Sessions, his old boss. At a second one-on-one Oval Office meeting July 19, Trump again told Lewandowski to deliver his message to Sessions, and fire Sessions if he refused to comply; Lewandowski then handed Trump's message to Dearborn, and Dearborn, similarly uncomfortable, discarded the notes without delivering them. Multiple people corroborated parts of this account.

The Post explored whether this episode constituted prosecutable obstruction of justice; a former federal prosecutor said yes, an unidentified senior Justice Department official said no, not technically. Read the opposing opinions, more details about the Trump-Lewandowski interactions, and a concise explainer on obstruction at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

1:47 a.m.

Jimmy Kimmel took the summer off but his show still goes on. Monday's Kimmel Live was guest-hosted by actor-comedian Anthony Anderson, who said he wasn't a fan of the phrase "guest host." "When you invite a guest over for dinner, you don't make them show up to an empty house and cook their own damn food," he pointed out. Anderson was impressed with the pirate fireworks displays blanketing the Los Angeles skyline on what was "probably the worst 4th of July ever" and disgusted with a "particularly infectious" party "at Diamond Lake in Michigan on Saturday."

"President Trump also had a rager outside the White House on Saturday, and this kind of tells you everything you need to know about America right now," Anderson said. "In 2015, President Obama had Bruno Mars perform at his 4th of July party." Trump, he showed, had a Bruno Mars military cover band playing to a sparse crowd. "Wow, Major Embarrassment — that's the name of that lead singer," he said. (The singer was actually SFC Christopher Rettig of the U.S. Army Band.)

Anderson also shrugged of Kanye West's presidential publicity stunt — "laugh all you want, but this would be historic, because this country has had a Black president, we've never had a crazy Black president" — and unveiled a special offer for white viewers who want to show how not-racist they are.

Tooning Out the News also touched on Trump's July 4th weekend, but the Mount Rushmore part. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:46 a.m.

In his new book, Separated: Inside an American Tragedy, NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff writes that Katie Miller, former spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, told him she was sent to the southern border to see the plight of migrant families in an attempt to make her "more compassionate," but it "didn't work."

Separated explores the Trump administration's systemic separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The book is out Tuesday, and on Monday night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviewed Soboroff and revealed Miller's comments for the first time. Miller is now Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, but while at DHS, she was an "unwavering defender of what we were doing," Maddow said, "taking these kids away from their parents."


Soboroff writes that Miller said her "family and colleagues told me that when I have kids I'll think about the separations differently. But I don't think so. ... DHS sent me to the border to see the separations for myself — to try to make me more compassionate — but it didn't work." Soboroff said he was astonished by Miller's remarks, and asked her: "Are you a white nationalist?" She responded, "No, but I believe if you come to America, you should assimilate. Why do we need to have 'Little Havana'?"

Katie Miller is married to Stephen Miller, one of President Trump's senior advisers. An immigration hardliner who has himself been accused of being a white nationalist, Stephen Miller was the architect of Trump's family separation policy. In May, Katie Miller announced she is pregnant with their first child. Catherine Garcia

12:15 a.m.

You can, if you choose, take White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany at her word that President Trump was taking no position on the Confederate flag when he tweeted Monday morning that NASCAR's decision to ban the flag from its races helped cause NASCAR's "lowest ratings EVER!" But that "second part of Trump's tweet, about NASCAR's TV ratings, is completely false," says Daniel Roberts at Yahoo Finance.

Ratings for the first NASCAR event after the sport announced its Confederate flag ban, the June 10 race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, jumped 113 percent from the same race last year, Fox Sports said. And overall, ratings are up 8 percent since the sport returned from COVID-19 lockdown on May 17 and 8 percent since the June 10 post-flag race. "In fact, every NASCAR race on Fox since the Confederate flag ban, except for Talladega on June 22, has rated higher than the equivalent race the year before," Roberts writes.

There is room for speculation over why Trump demanded an apology from Bubba Wallace, NASCAR's only top-tier Black driver, for a noose incident he played no real part in, and it isn't entirely clear why NASCAR's ratings are rising. "Whether the extra eyeballs are because of the controversial Confederate flag ban or despite it, or whether it's all thanks to the current dearth of live sports to watch, is up for debate," Roberts writes. "But the sport is enjoying a clear ratings bump over last year." Peter Weber

12:11 a.m.

President Trump can breathe a sigh of relief — the latest tell-all book from a member of his orbit isn't about him, but rather first lady Melania Trump.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend and senior adviser to Melania Trump, is writing a memoir that will detail their 15-year relationship, from beginning to implosion. Melania and Me is due to hit shelves on Sept. 1, Vanity Fair's Emily Jane Fox reports, and will be published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster — the same company behind former National Security Adviser John Bolton's The Room Where it Happened and the upcoming Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, written by the president's niece, Mary Trump.

Wolkoff, a former special events director at Vogue, helped plan the 2017 inauguration, and soon after became a senior adviser to the first lady. Her time in the White House was short-lived; she was ousted in February 2018 after it was revealed that the Trump inaugural committee paid her firm $26 million to assist with the inauguration.

Wolkoff told The New York Times in 2019 that she had been "thrown under the bus." Time has evidently not healed all wounds, as people with knowledge of Melania and Me told The Daily Beast it is "largely negative," "explosive," and "heavily trashes the first lady." Catherine Garcia

July 6, 2020

In a segment Sunday on Ghislaine Maxwell's arrest, Fox News showed this photo of Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein, and future first lady Melania Trump from February 2000. They cropped out Donald Trump. That was a mistake, a Fox News spokeswoman said Monday.

Embed from Getty Images

“On Sunday, July 5, a report on Ghislaine Maxwell during Fox News Channel’s America’s News HQ mistakenly eliminated President Donald Trump from a photo alongside then Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Maxwell," the spokeswoman said in a statement. "We regret the error.” Peter Weber

July 6, 2020

The United States is "knee-deep in the first wave" of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday, but he is hopeful that "by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2021, we will at least have an answer whether the vaccine or vaccines — plural — are safe and effective."

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there are multiple vaccine candidates being studied, "and if things go the way it looks like they're going," one will enter the final phase of clinical trials at the end of the month, with others soon following.

Fauci made his comments during a Facebook Live discussion with Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Although companies are working as fast as possible to develop a vaccine, Fauci stressed that "there will be no compromising on the principles of safety and efficacy. Whatever we come up with in a few months is going to be just as rigorously tested as any vaccine ever has been."

The trials will take place in areas where there are high levels of transmission, and Fauci said he is ensuring they "are quite well represented by the individuals who are most susceptible, not only to infection because of certain circumstances in their life, but also the fact that they are more prone to complications because of underlying comorbidities." Catherine Garcia

July 6, 2020

Amy Cooper, the white woman who called 911 while in New York City's Central Park and claimed an "African-American man" was threatening her life, was charged on Monday with filing a false report.

The incident took place on Memorial Day after Christian Cooper, a Black man who was birdwatching, asked Amy Cooper to leash her dog. She refused to do so, instead telling Christian Cooper she would call the police and tell them "there's an African-American man threatening my life." Christian Cooper, a board member of the New York City Audubon Society, filmed the encounter, which has been viewed 40 million times online and sparked a national discussion.

Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said on Monday that his office is "strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable." Amy Cooper was charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, a misdemeanor; if found guilty, she could face up to a year in jail. She is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 14.

After the incident, Amy Cooper was fired from her job. In a statement, her lawyer, Robert Barnes, said his client will be found not guilty, adding, "She lost her job, her home, and her public life. Now some demand her freedom? How many lives are we going to destroy over misunderstood 60-second videos on social media?" When asked for comment, Christian Cooper told The New York Times he had "zero involvement" in the district attorney's case. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads