“The White House signaled on Thursday that President Trump would allow a secret memo written by Republican congressional aides to be made public, despite fears from some in the West Wing that it could prompt the resignation of the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, and lead to another crisis for the administration.
“Mr. Trump, who had a brief window to block the memo’s disclosure on national security grounds, was expected to tell Congress on Friday that he had no objections and would probably not request that any of its substance be redacted, according to a senior administration official.
“The president’s eagerness to see the document made public pitted him against his own top national security officials, who have warned that it omits crucial context and that its release would jeopardize sensitive government information. The memo is said to accuse federal law enforcement officials of abusing their authorities in seeking court permission to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.” (New York Times)
Meanwhile, on Friday morning, Trump tweeted: “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans - something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!” (Twitter)
WHAT TRUMP SAID. “Trump told aides and confidants he believed the memo would vindicate his claim early last year that the expansive Russia investigation overseen by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was a ‘witch hunt.’ He had long expressed frustration, both publicly and privately, with his Department of Justice and, specifically, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is supervising Mueller’s work.
“The president said he thought the release of the memo would help build a public argument against Rosenstein’s handling of the case, according to people familiar with the discussions. Trump suggested to aides and confidants that the memo might give him the justification to fire Rosenstein—something about which Trump has privately mused—or make other changes at the Justice Department, which he had complained was not sufficiently loyal to him.” (Washington Post)
RNC MEETING. “Trump delivered remarks to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting Thursday night at Trump International Hotel … his second speech to members of his own party in the same day. … The president criticized Democrats and the ‘haters’ who still watched his State of the Union address two nights earlier. The president said he is trying to push a deal on immigration, but Democrats are stonewalling on a deal over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. ‘The Democrats are AWOL. They’re missing in action,’ Mr. Trump said.
“Mr. Trump said all Democrats do is resist, taking a jab at the ‘resist’ movement opposing him. The president also mentioned how well he thought his State of the Union address had gone Tuesday night, saying even the ‘haters’ gave good reviews in ‘fake’ polls.’” (CBS News)
Trump also “tore into Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a GOP rival and potential 2020 primary challenger. … The president mocked Kasich, who is being termed-out of office and fell short in the 2016 GOP primary, and described him as one of his loudest and most relentless critics.
“At one point in the meeting, Trump brought onstage Bob Paduchik, who the president selected to serve as Republican National Committee co-chair after overseeing Trump’s successful 2016 campaign in Ohio. One person who was in attendance recalled the president heaping praise on Paduchik for helping him win the critical swing state, where he’d faced opposition from the governor. The president recounted the Ohio campaign and how he ultimately won the state.” (Politico)
Meanwhile, “media was escorted out of the RNC’s meeting.” (Politico)
WORTH NOTING. “Ada Fisher, a Republican National Committeewoman from North Carolina, says it’s ‘racist’ to seek to bar immigrants from Africa and Haiti. Fisher complained about … Trump’s reported ‘shithole countries’ comment during a private breakfast for committee members.” (CNN)
IOWA SPIN. “‘Reagan was my all-time favorite in my lifetime,’ said Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler of the iconic conservative president. ‘At least until now.’
“The RNC, and the vast majority of the GOP base, stood by Trump through the enormously controversial Comey firing and his equivocating responses on racist activity in Charlottesville, though the RNC passed its own resolution condemning white supremacy. But signs of a strong economy and the passage of a top Republican legislative achievement have made the party more enthusiastically dedicated to this unpopular president than ever.” (McClatchy)
MAINE. The Maine Republican Party’s “executive director says he’s paying back thousands of dollars he owes in state income taxes. Maine Revenue Services has placed a pair of tax liens totaling about $11,300 against Jason Savage for not paying income taxes in 2013 or 2014.” (AP)
TRAIN CRASH. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating an Amtrak train crash in Virginia carrying dozens of Republican congressmen, said it appears to have been an accident. (AP)
What We're Following See More »
"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."
"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."
"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections ... Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice." Mueller has faced pressure to wrap up the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said an official, who would receive the results of the investigation and have "some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released," if he remains at his post.
"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."