On the Prowl
With the triumphant declaration, “The bear is loose,” President Obama recently has twice escaped the White House bubble and strolled off campus. First, it was a leisurely walk along the Ellipse to the Interior Department on May 21. This week, it was Monday’s hike up Pennsylvania Avenue to a Starbucks. But on both occasions, the liberated president made it clear he wants some people to stay in their cage — the reporters who cover him. Both times, Obama showed clear pique that those pesky reporters were ruining his jaunts. All recent presidents have allowed at least one print reporter close enough to monitor their interactions. But this president doesn’t like that precedent. “C’mon, guys,” he complained to reporters en route to Interior. “You’re not going to follow me the whole way?” Only the official White House photographer and a government videographer stayed close. On Monday, the White House broke from the long-accepted norm and did not alert the protective press pool in time for reporters to accompany the president. When they caught up, Obama complained to his aides, ordering them to herd the press away. The White House Correspondents’ Association has since protested. But insiders are decidedly bearish about the chances of restoring the traditional coverage rules.
George E. Condon Jr.
An Unfamiliar Spot
The Jeb Bush 2016 boomlet suddenly has taken a new twist — Jeb for veep. The former Florida governor has kept rigorously quiet about his options. Even brother George remains in the dark about his sibling’s leanings. But the big-time opposition of Jeb’s wife, Columba, to a presidential run leads many Republican elders to assume he won’t be a candidate. That’s why some of these same GOP leaders have begun touting Jeb as the natural choice for the second spot. “He’s the perfect No. 2 for any Republican ticket,” a top GOP consultant told National Journal. “It makes a world of sense.” Bush is an unabashed conservative, the theory goes, but a kinder, gentler version who can appeal to mainstream Republicans, conservative Democrats, and independents. He would even pass muster with conservative red-hots who think he’s too establishment, especially because he speaks fluent Spanish and is popular with Hispanic voters otherwise turned off by the GOP’s hard line on immigration reform. And if Jeb has to campaign for only three months as a VP nominee, instead of more than two years as a presidential candidate, a senior Bush family source predicts his wife would sign off.
He’s Back Sen. John Boozman, the Arkansas Republican who’s been out of commission since undergoing heart surgery in April, returned to the Capitol this week. “I’m feeling good,” he said. “It’s kind of sad — people saying I look better now than before I left.” Boozman, who is serving his first term since defeating Blanche Lincoln, said his outlook appears positive. “This disease is a strange deal. If you get through it — very few people do — then you have the chance of a full recovery. I’ve done very, very well and hopefully look forward to a full recovery.” If Boozman had had to retire for health reasons, his seat might have switched parties, with Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe tasked with appointing an interim successor.
College Try Rep. Peter Welch seems like he could have been Rep. Trey Gowdy’s old college professor. Welch, at 67, is liberal and cerebral and doesn’t try to hide his half-bald head. Gowdy, at 49, is a conservative rabble-rouser from South Carolina with a blond punk hairdo. Who knew they would get along? They met through a common staffer who worked for Welch when he was Vermont’s Senate president. The aide then moved to South Carolina to work for Gowdy. And it turns out they had more in common than that. They agree that college costs too much, and they cosponsored legislation to curb higher-education regulations and permit alternate pathways to college degrees. Of Gowdy, Welch says, “He’s got a weird haircut, but he’s a good guy.”
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"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."
At an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA chief John Brennan said he saw information on Trump-Russia contacts that were worth a further look. "Having been involved in many counterintelligence cases in the past, I know what the Russians do. They try to suborn individuals," Brennan said. "And they try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf, whether wittingly or unwittingly. And I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons, and so therefore by the time I left office ... I had unresolved questions in my mind."
"President Trump is moving rapidly toward assembling outside counsel to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and Russian interference in last year’s election, and in recent days he and his advisers have privately courted several prominent attorneys to join the effort. By Monday, a list of finalists for the legal team had emerged, according to four people briefed on the discussions."
"President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials. Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election."