Trump legal team argues Mueller can’t compel him to testify

- Juni 03, 2018

MUST READ -- NYT A1, MIKE SCHMIDT, MAGGIE HABERMAN, CHARLIE SAVAGE and MATT APUZZO, “Trump’s Lawyers, in Confidential Memo, Argue to Head Off a Historic Subpoena”: “President Trump’s lawyers have for months quietly waged a campaign to keep the special counsel from trying to force him to answer questions in the investigation into whether he obstructed justice, asserting that he cannot be compelled to testify and arguing in a confidential letter that he could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations.

“In a brash assertion of presidential power, the 20-page letter — sent to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and obtained by The New York Times — contends that the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling because the Constitution empowers him to, ‘if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.’ Mr. Trump’s lawyers fear that if he answers questions, either voluntarily or in front of a grand jury, he risks exposing himself to accusations of lying to investigators, a potential crime or impeachable offense.

“Mr. Trump’s broad interpretation of executive authority is novel and is likely to be tested if a court battle ensues over whether he could be ordered to answer questions. It is unclear how that fight, should the case reach that point, would play out. …

“The lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Trump dictated a statement to The Times about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between some of his top advisers and Russians who were said to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Though the statement is misleading ... the lawyers call it ‘short but accurate.’ Mr. Mueller is investigating whether Mr. Trump, by dictating the comment, revealed that he was trying to cover up proof of the campaign’s ties to Russia.” ... The memo

SUNDAY BEST -- GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS talks with RUDY GIULIANI on ABC’S “THIS WEEK”: STEPHANOPOULOS: “The letter also cites the president’s pardon power. Do you and the president’s attorneys believe the president has the power to pardon himself?” GIULIANI: “He probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself but he probably -- not to say he can’t. I mean, that -- that’s another really interesting constitutional argument, can the president pardon himself. … I think the political ramifications of that would be tough. Pardoning other people is one thing. Pardoning yourself is another.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “So you’re still recommending [Trump] does not sit down for the interview?” GIULIANI: “Jay [Sekulow] and I want to keep an open mind and I have to just be honest, I mean we’re leaning toward not. But look, if they can convince that it will be brief, it would be to the point, there were five or six points they have to clarify, and with that, we can get this -- this long nightmare for the -- for the American public over.”

GIULIANI on Trump’s shifting Trump Tower meeting explanations: “This is the reason you don’t let the president testify. … Our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption.”

-- DANA BASH interviewed PREET BHARARA on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”: BASH: “[Giuliani] also just said moments ago that he agrees that the president probably does have the power to pardon himself, though he added that he doesn't think the president will do that. What is your take?”

BHARARA: “I think it would be outrageous for a sitting president of the United States to pardon -- I think if the president decided that he was going to pardon himself, I think that it is almost self-executing impeachment. Whether or not there is a minor legal argument that some law professor somewhere in a legal journal can make that the president can pardon, that is not what the framers could have intended. That’s not what the American people, I think, would be able to stand for.”

-- CHRIS WALLACE spoke with COREY LEWANDOWSKI on FOX’S “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: via Jacqueline Klimas: LEWANDOWSKI: “There’s a potential to avoid a subpoena entirely if the team can work together and determine that the questions that will be asked will be relevant to an investigation to prove once and for all there was no collusion.”

Good Sunday morning. The Caps are up 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals after beating the Las Vegas Knights 3-1 last night. Next game: Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK AHEAD … MONDAY: Trump will have lunch with VP Mike Pence and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. He will also participate in a Gold Star families Memorial Day reception. TUESDAY: The president will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. He will also host Super Bowl LLI Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. …

… WEDNESDAY: Trump will sign the VA Mission Act. He will also visit FEMA headquarters and attend a 2018 hurricane briefing. THURSDAY: The president is meeting again with Pompeo. FRIDAY: Held for travel to the G7 Summit in Canada.

WHAT’S ON TRUMP’S MIND THIS MORNING -- @realDonaldTrump at 9:25 a.m.: “As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign? Should have told me!” …

… at 9:34 a.m.: “....Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!”


-- A SHOT ACROSS THE BOW -- “China warns U.S. trade deals off if tariffs go ahead,” by AP’s Joe McDonald in Beijing: “China warned Sunday after another round of talks on a sprawling trade dispute with Washington that any deals they produce ‘will not take effect’ if President Donald Trump’s threatened tariff hike on Chinese goods goes ahead. The warning came after delegations led by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and China’s top economic official, Vice Premier Liu He, wrapped up a meeting on Beijing’s pledge to narrow its trade surplus. Ross said at the start of the event they had discussed specific American exports China might purchase, but the talks ended with no joint statement and neither side released details.”

-- CHRIS WALLACE spoke with W.H. ECONOMIC ADVISER LARRY KUDLOW about whether the tariffs will impact the economy: KUDLOW: “Oh, it might. I don’t deny that. You have to keep an eye on it.” WALLACE: “It could jeopardize it?” KUDLOW: “It’s possible, absolutely. I don’t think it has right now.”

-- CHUCK TODD spoke with CANADIAN PM JUSTIN TRUDEAU on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: TODD: “You said you’re going to retaliate. How serious you are, and do you really think you can make a dent? Look, the American economy’s a lot larger than—how, how can you do this retaliation without hurting Canada more than the United States?”

TRUDEAU: “Well, we’ve put forward, first of all, we’re putting the same kinds of tariffs exactly on steel and aluminum coming from the United States into Canada to be directly reciprocal. But we’re also putting a number of tariffs on consumer goods, finished products for which Canadians have easy alternatives. One of this -- either made in Canada or made from another partner with no tariffs. One of the truths about tariffs is they drive up costs for consumers. And on top of that, these tariffs are going to be hurting American workers and Canadian workers.”

-- MARGARET BRENNAN talks with OHIO GOV. JOHN KASICH on CBS’ “FACE THE NATION: BRENNAN: “Well certainly Republican leadership in Congress … [are] not happy about what the president is doing but they’re also not stopping him or they’re unable to stop these tariffs.”

KASICH: “Well, Look, Margaret, I have been frankly shocked at the fact that our leaders think they’ve got to, they have to ask permission from the president to do anything. This is very foreign to me. It’s alien to me. When you are elected to the United States Senate or the United States House of Representatives you have a duty to represent your district, but most important, represent your country, not to just be thinking about your political party.”

BRENNAN: “So what should … Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan be doing right now?” KASICH: “I think they ought to make it very clear that they’re not going to just sit back and tolerate this, that they’re going to do whatever they can do legislatively to send a clear signal-- the same way they ought to be doing these things on the issue of DACA, those are the Dreamers that are here. You know it’s like, ‘Well we don’t want to pass an immigration bill because the president might veto it.’ Well send it to him. Let him veto it. I mean that’s your job as a congressman.”

-- SEN. BOB CORKER (@SenBobCorker): “I am working with like-minded Republican senators on ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies. Will Democrats join us?”

TRUMP ALSO SOUNDED OFF ON TRADE yesterday via Twitter: “The United States must, at long last, be treated fairly on Trade. If we charge a country ZERO to sell their goods, and they charge us 25, 50 or even 100 percent to sell ours, it is UNFAIR and can no longer be tolerated. That is not Free or Fair Trade, it is Stupid Trade! …

“Why is it that the Wall Street Journal, though well meaning, never mentions the unfairness of the Tariffs routinely charged against the U.S. by other countries, or the many Billions of Dollars that the Tariffs we are now charging are, and will be, pouring into U.S. coffers? ...

“When you’re almost 800 Billion Dollars a year down on Trade, you can’t lose a Trade War! The U.S. has been ripped off by other countries for years on Trade, time to get smart!”

-- FACT-CHECK to Trump’s first tweet: VICTORIA GUIDA (@vtg2), who covers trade for POLITICO: “A tariff is actually the U.S. government charging a U.S. buyer to buy a foreign good. It’s not charging the foreign country anything.”


-- REUTERS: “Syria’s Assad says will visit North Korea, news agency reports,” by Josh Smith in Seoul: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he plans to visit North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korean state media reported on Sunday, potentially the first meeting between Kim and another head of state in Pyongyang.”

-- NAHAL TOOSI: “Surreal Trump-Kim summit defies diplomatic playbook: From security to menus to media access, planners must somehow merge Trump’s style with a reclusive dictator’s carefully guarded image”: One “possible concern of the North Koreans: the height differential between Kim and Trump. Kim is thought to be roughly 5’7” while Trump stands around 6’2’’. That gap can be narrowed some, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has recalled of her 2000 meeting with Kim’s father in Pyongyang: ‘I was wearing heels, but so was he, which made us about the same height.’ ...

“If there’s a meal involved, the delegations will have worked out the menu in advance. Alcohol can pose special complications. Trump, for instance, is a teetotaler, while Kim is known to enjoy wine. So did his father:

“‘I spent much of the evening trying to fend off the North Korean delegation’s aggressive style of drinking, which appeared to require the constant refilling of glasses and near-continuous toasts,’ Albright recalled. ... Gift exchanges are standard in such summits, though they often happen behind the scenes with details publicized afterward. ... North Korea is so proud of the gifts its leaders have received that more than 100,000 of them are on display in a mountainside museum called the International Friendship Exhibition Hall.”

-- WAPO’S DAVID NAKAMURA: “‘Speed dating’: Critics worry Trump is already handing propaganda victories to North Korea”: “When former president Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea in 2009 on a humanitarian mission to free two U.S. journalists, he delivered strict instructions to his team ahead of their meeting with dictator Kim Jong Il: ‘We’re not smiling.’ In several photos, including a formal portrait with their hosts in Pyongyang, Clinton and his aides kept their game faces on — looking serious and determined, befitting the tone of the mission, according to a person familiar with the trip. President Trump took a decidedly different approach on Friday when he welcomed a North Korean official to the White House for the first such meeting in 18 years.

“Trump beamed as Kim Yong Chol — a former spy chief accused of masterminding the sinking of a South Korean navy vessel in 2010 that killed 46 sailors — presented him with a cartoonishly oversize envelope containing a letter from Kim Jong Un, the nation’s current dictator. The two posed for a photo in the Oval Office with Trump proudly showing off the envelope — an image that White House aides promptly distributed to the public. The warm display left some former U.S. officials who’ve negotiated with North Korea arguing that Trump had already handed Pyongyang another public relations victory before winning concessions on its nuclear program.”

2018 WATCH -- “Jon Tester, a Democrat in Deep-Red Montana, Isn’t Sweating Trump’s Threats,” by NYT’s Nick Fandos in Big Sandy, Montana:

IN SEARCH OF AN AGENDA -- “GOP senators need an agenda — so they’re doing a poll,” by John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett: “Republican senators aren’t sure what to do between now and the November election. So they’re conducting a poll — of themselves. Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) have been quietly circulating an unusual ‘survey’ of their colleagues in recent weeks asking about their level of support for dozens of legislative proposals, some of them highly controversial. …

“At the urging of rank-and-file Republicans, McConnell is expected to announce next week that he is dramatically shortening the traditional month-long August recess, so the Senate can stay in town and pass 2019 spending bills and other legislative items. Cruz and Alexander — with the blessing of McConnell and other top Republicans — want to get a sense of what, if anything, the Senate GOP conference can do beyond its current agenda, according to a Republican source privy to internal party dynamics.”

SCOOP -- “APNewsBreak: Pentagon to take over security clearance checks,” by Lolita Baldor: “The Defense Department is poised to take over background investigations for the federal government, using increased automation and high-tech analysis to tighten controls and tackle an enormous backlog of workers waiting for security clearances, according to U.S. officials. The change aims to fix a system whose weaknesses were exposed by the case of a Navy contractor who gunned down a dozen people at Washington’s Navy Yard in 2013. ...

“Another problem has been delays: a backlog of about 700,000 people, including high-ranking federal officials waiting as much as a year to get clearances. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, for example, received his permanent clearance just a few weeks ago, more than 16 months after Trump took office. The delay, his lawyer said, was caused by the backlog in the new administration and Kushner’s extensive financial wealth, which required lengthy review.”

CLICKER -- Matt Wuerker’s May cartoons -- 13 funnies

YOU’RE INVITED -- HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE (R-La.) will sit down with us for his first live D.C. event since the shooting JUNE 12 at the D.C. Bar headquarters (901 4th Street NW). RSVP

THE ADMINISTRATION -- “White House plans to nominate conservative documentarian, Bannon ally, to lead government media agency,” by CNN’s Hadas Gold: “President Donald Trump will nominate a conservative documentarian and Stephen Bannon ally to lead a large government agency that creates and distributes news to more than one hundred countries. Late Friday, the White House announced its intent to nominate Michael Pack, a former president of the conservative Claremont Institute, to lead the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The board controls U.S. government-funded media outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe and is considered the country’s largest public diplomacy program. ... If confirmed, Pack would replace current CEO John Lansing, who is a holdover from the Obama administration.”

REPLACING GARRETT -- “GOP picks Denver Riggleman to replace Rep. Tom Garrett as nominee in Virginia’s 5th District,” by WaPo’s Jenna Portnoy: “Republican activists chose Denver Riggleman at a meeting Saturday in central Virginia to replace Rep. Thomas Garrett (R) on the November ballot, following a frenzied five-day campaign. The craft distillery owner and former Air Force intelligence officer will face Democrat Leslie Cockburn, a journalist, author and first-time candidate trying to capitalize on opposition to President Trump in Charlottesville and other liberal enclaves in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.”

HMM -- “‘Replica’ in jeep next to Kobach stunned onlookers at Shawnee parade. City apologizes,” by Kansas City Star’s Hunter Woodall and Mike Hendricks: “Kris Kobach made his way through a parade in Johnson County Saturday morning, waving from an American flag colored jeep with a large gun mounted in back. The city of Shawnee later issued an apology for Kobach’s display. The sight of Kobach, a Republican candidate for Kansas governor, in the vehicle at the Old Shawnee Days parade stunned some onlookers and quickly sparked criticism on social media. ‘It was pretty shocking,’ said pastor Johnny Lewis of Shawnee Community Christian Church. ‘There were audible gasps from the folks we were sitting by.’”

BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:

-- “The Science Behind Psychopaths and Extreme Altruists,” by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in NatGeo – per’s description: “Is empathy a learned trait, or part of our DNA? Current research suggests that most if not all humans are born with the instinct to care about the feelings of others. But in some infants the loss or absence of empathy is measurable at two years of age; they show an ‘active disregard’ for others.”

-- “‘This is Bigger Than Myself’: How the Women of the U.S. Gymnastics Team Found Their Voice,” by Vanessa Grigoriadis in Vanity Fair: “As new accusers continue to emerge in the wake of Larry Nassar’s abhorrent crimes, gymnastics—and the idea of girlhood that the sport perpetuates—is undergoing a revolution.”

-- “Incendiary,” by Warren Bass, a former 9/11 Commission staffer who is now executive editor of Penguin Press, in a 2007 WashPost review of “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11,” by Dinesh D’Souza: “D’Souza is too busy projecting to really grapple with al-Qaeda’s politics, strategy or ideological appeal; it’s as if he read Mein Kampf and concluded that its author’s main concern was not Aryan supremacy or genocidal anti-Semitism but distaste for Weimar theater.” ... $14.35 on Amazon (h/t @CarlosLozadaWP)

-- “Little Scalia,” by Simon van Zuylen-Wood in NY Mag: “Watching Neil Gorsuch, a mild-mannered good boy from Denver, become the second-most-polarizing man in Washington.”

-- “I went to the Scripps National Spelling Bee—and felt illiterate,” by Quartz’s Annabelle Timsit: “The event can feel highly choreographed and stilted, because it is. But small moments of humor shine through. The judge asks Anson Cook of Virginia how he’s feeling when he gets up to the microphone. Cook answers, ‘Give me a word and I’ll tell you.’ That kid is going far, I think to myself. Sadly, not in this competition, because he spells his word incorrectly and gets eliminated.”

-- “Looking for Life on a Flat Earth,” by Alan Burdick in the New Yorker: “The reward is existential solace. This, I came to understand, was the real draw, the thing that could make, say, an unemployed clerical worker drive twelve hours, alone, from Michigan to Raleigh. To believe in a flat Earth is to belong not only to a human community but to sit, once again, at the center of the cosmos.”

-- “Jimmy Carter, the most successful one-term president in history?” by Julian E. Zelizer in WaPo, reviewing “President Carter: The White House Years,” by Stuart E. Eizenstat: “Carter immersed himself in the policy challenges of the period, he worked extraordinarily hard to find solutions to problems that seemed in­trac­table, and he gave everything he had to restore Americans’ faith in the potential for government to do good. At a moment when we have a president who shows little interest in the particulars of policy and spends much of his time watching television, the history of Carter might seem like a lost world — but one that we desperately need to find again.” ... $26.71 on Amazon

-- “Read This Story and Get Happier,” by Adam Sternbergh on the cover of NY Mag: “The most popular course at Yale teaches how to be happy. We took it for you.”

-- “‘He’d Get his Head Chopped Off’: Can Mike Pence Survive the Man Who Saved Him?’” – Vanity Fair: “Is wedding himself to Donald Trump Mike Pence’s original sin, or his salvation? In an adaptation from her new book, ‘First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power,’ Kate Andersen Brower explains how a Christian warrior was saved by a thrice-married reality star.” ... $23.19 on Amazon

-- “Blackout in Puerto Rico”: “FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the humanitarian and economic crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, examining how the federal response, Wall Street and years of neglect have left the island struggling to survive.”

-- “Atlantic City’s existential bet isn’t about gambling,” by WaPo’s Katie Zezima: “With two new casinos, it hopes for revival as a millennial playground. But survival depends on shows, spas and clubs, not chips and cards.”

-- “Is America Ready for Kinder, Gentler Political TV?” by Heather Hendershot in POLITICO Magazine: “William F. Buckley’s genteel talk show seems hopelessly out of step with today’s debates. Its revival [with Margaret Hoover as host] is betting on that for its success.”

TRANSITION – FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Halie Soifer is now executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. She most recently, was national security adviser to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and also has served as foreign policy adviser for Delaware Democratic Sens. Ted Kaufman and Chris Coons and former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and is also an Obama State alum.

WEEKEND WEDDING -- Matt Dornic, VP of communications at CNN, on Saturday married Kyle Volpe, a major in the Air Force. Pool report from Colorado: “The wedding was at the Boulder Dushanbe TeaHouse where Kyle is from. Jackie Kucinich officiated in the park and guests danced until the wee hours. Emotional toasts from Chris Berend, Michael and Mary Katherine Steel, Emily Kuhn, Catherine Hill, Nick Massella and Christine Delargy. The night before was a party hosted by Matt’s parents with a karaoke contest won by Ron Bonjean and Doug Heye. Ron wore his metal to the wedding the next night.” Pic ... Instagram video

SPOTTED: Andrew Morse, Tammy Haddad, Allison Gollust, Sara Bonjean, John Legittino, Lauren Pratapas, Ned Price, Matt and Rebecca Haller, Richard Hudock, Rodell Mollineau, Mark Paustenbach, Elizabeth Thorp, Evan Lukaske, Kate Glassman Bennett, Ed O’Keefe, John Avlon and Margaret Hoover.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD – Richard Cullen, EVP of public affairs at FP1 Strategies and an Eric Cantor and Ken Cuccinelli alum, and Laura Cullen, of the National Petroleum Council, on Saturday welcomed Virginia Tighe Cullen. Instapic

BIRTHWEEK (was Friday): Federico Barttfeld, Argentina’s first ever ambassador to Singapore (hat tip: Ben Chang)

BIRTHDAYS: Dr. Jill Biden ... Anderson Cooper is 51 ... Justin Clark, director of the WH office of public liaison ... Courtney Mullen, special assistant in the WH office of presidential personnel ... Raul Castro, the former president of Cuba, is 87 ... Erick Erickson is 43 ... Ann Stock (h/t Jon Haber) … Whitney Smith ... Abe Rakov ... Anders Felt ... Eric Schmeltzer is 43 ... Michael Fleischer, president and general manager of Direct Impact ... WSJ’s Michelle Hackman ... Nick Troiano, executive director of Unite America ... Terence Grado ... Mike Elk is 32 ... Mark Proctor ... Wyatt Smith ... Tommy McFly is 32 (h/t Kelley McCormick) ... Andrew Weinstein (h/t Nihal Krishan) ... Mashable’s Sophie Oreck ... Stéphane Blemus ... Politico’s Annesha Bhattacharya ... Politico Europe’s Bjarke Smith-Meyer ... Edelman’s Hannah Walter ... Dennis Overbye, NYT’s “cosmic affairs correspondent,” per his Twitter ... Bryce Harlow, SVP of gov’t relations at CBS … Reggie Cardozo ...

... John Kirby ... Rob Rehg, president of Edelman’s D.C. office (h/t Richard Edelmann) ... Don Teague ... Kellee Barron-Lanza … Sophia Sokolowski of the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement ... former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) is 92 ... former Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) is 8-0 ... Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, is 61 ... Benjamin Cassidy ... Faizan Uddin ... Evan Medeiros of the Eurasia Group and “brand new papa of Amelia Gertrude Medeiros (Milly)” (h/t Ben Chang) … Mary Turnbull ... Bruce Bookhultz … Gail Pennybacker ... Jen Buesinger ... Angie Young ... Joshua Miller ... Jim Kirk ... Chet Rhodes is 57 ... Sean McFate ... Susan Reimer ... Barbara Fitzgerald ... Katherine Amenta … Zach Zagar ... Jeremy Levin ... Dick Deardon is 8-0 (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)


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