Trump Can’t Put Comey Behind Him

Attorney General Sessions Will Testify Tuesday

This weekend, despite having repeatedly declared himself “totally vindicated”, Trump continued to Tweet about his nemesis:

Which begs the question: How can fired FBI Director James Comey be accused of “leaking” anything, if everything he says is a lie? (Something the President also contends.) Wouldn’t that just be lying? We are not sure what the President who has “all the best words” means in his use of prevalent here either.

The major weekend development coming with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee this coming Tuesday. In a letter, Sessions explains “In light of reports regarding Mr. Comey’s recent testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in an appropriate forum.”

New information related to Sessions came out right before and during Comey’s testimony. In Comey’s written statement, he brought up the fact that the FBI sort of knew Sessions would have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation two weeks before he actually did. When Oregon Senator Ron Wyden followed up on that, Comey explained “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued involvement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.” You can watch that exchange here:

Naturally, Democrats are demanding Sessions’ testimony be open. As of the time of publication of this newsletter, it is not listed on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s website either as a closed or open hearing.

Sessions was supposed to appear before House and Senate appropriations subcommittees to discuss Justice Department budget goals. (FYI: he mentioned the opioid crisis and violent crime as the two biggest areas of focus.) But he said he became concerned those hearings would turn into a free-for-all about the Russia investigation instead. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will appear at those hearings in his place.

Former New York U.S. Attorney Says Trump Wouldn’t Stop Calling Him, So He Stopped Answering; Got Fired

Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, who was conspicuously in attendance at the Comey hearing, had a lot to say over the weekend about what he characterized as his “weird….unusual….peculiar….uncomfortable” contacts with President Trump. Bharara said Trump called him two times after election day “ostensibly just to shoot the breeze.” When Trump called a third time, Bharara says he decided not to take the call because he felt it was “inappropriate” for a one-on-one without the Attorney General involved, nor any warning.

You can watch his ABC News interview here:

The Washington Post reports Trump’s lawyers point out that Trump was Bharara’s boss, so if he refused to take the President’s call, he “deserved to be fired.”

Supreme Court Considers Case That Would Widen Unconstitutionality of Gerrymandering

The Supreme Court could act as early as this morning on a landmark case involving gerrymandering. (More likely it’s expected to accept the case and consider it fully in the fall.) The case involves a lower court ruling which found redrawn electoral districts in Wisconsin are unconstitutional. Due to the gerrymandering led by Governor Scott Walker, Republicans were able to win a 60-39 seat advantage in the state assembly, while winning only 48% of the vote.

While the Supreme Court recently reversed race-based gerrymandering in North Carolina, courts have generally allowed gerrymandering based solely on giving a political party a leg up.

Tech Investors Might Be In For A Wild Ride This Week

Apple under pressure after at least one analyst downgraded it from “buy” to “hold” early this morning, saying the stock is fully valued right now. Apple fell almost 4% Friday; it’s down another 2% in pre-market trading today. Still it’s up nearly 30% so far in 2017. And Apple is not alone: the sell-off in techs late last week took about 100-billion dollars out of investors’ wallets.

Trump has made a point (including this weekend and this morning) of taking credit for economic and stock market gains (and griping mainstream media is not giving him enough credit.)

Will be interesting to see what he does if things start going the other way.

Senate Health Care Bill Moves Not-That-Slowly-And-Surely-Ahead

Look for the Senate this week to move ahead with a health care plan it can vote on by July. All negotiations so far have been behind closed doors, so it’s hard to tell what will or won’t be in the bill or how far along it is. According to The Hill, the main difference in the Senate’s plan vs. the House’s (that already passed), is the Senate will stretch out the time over which they’ll phase out funding for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait has a great analysis where he concludes Republicans know they’re in a no-win situation, so are simply working now to insulate themselves from public backlash.

Trump Ready To Untie New Ties With Cuba

That’s set for Friday in Miami. Trump is expected to reverse moves by the Obama administration to normalize relations. Specifically, he is expected to end regular tourism between the U.S. and Cuba and cut back on the ability of U.S. companies to invest there.

It’s also an opportunity for Trump to underscore his hypocrisy. White House spokesperson Sean Spicer says it all has to do with Trump’s commitment to human rights, “something that’s very strong to him … It’s one of the reasons that he’s reviewing the Cuba policy.” Except…that recently in Saudi Arabia, Trump said that the U.S. “would not lecture” on that country’s abysmal human rights record. So what’s different about Cuba? Two powerful figures in congress Trump owes or wants to give favors to, that’s what. The move to back away from warmer relations almost entirely orchestrated by two influential Florida Republicans: Senator Marco Rubio, and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, both of whom were Trump supporters. (If you remember, “Little Marco” eventually turned to Trump even after Trump repeatedly bullied and humiliated him on the campaign trail.)

It’s also a pretty sure bet Trump is not developing any golf courses in the island nation, just 90 miles from Florida.

Puerto Rico Votes To Become 51st State, But Congress Not Likely To OK

The U.S. Caribbean territory voted overwhelmingly this weekend to become America’s 51st state. 97% of ballots cast were in favor of statehood. Only problem, 77% of the electorate didn’t vote. That’s because there’s almost no chance it’ll happen. The U.S. congress would have to approve it, and Puerto Rico is in the midst of a deep financial crisis. There are political issues too: it’s likely to skew Democratic, so the Republican controlled House and Senate would be unlikely to risk adding two new Senators and a handful of Representatives. Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898. Residents pay no federal taxes for income earned in the territory, but have no representation in Congress.

Editorial: Anatomy Of A Trump Statement

We thought we’d take a look at Trump’s statement that he’d “100%” be willing to testify under oath about Comey. And that an announcement about whether he’d taped conversations with Comey would be something he’ll reveal “over a very short period of time.” Here’s video of that:

Of course, Trump doesn’t have a very good track record on things he’s said he’ll “100%” do. For instance, not touching Medicaid. For instance, moving the Israel Embassy to Jerusalem. Similarly, in the past when he’s said things are forthcoming, they generally don’t come forth. For instance, evidence showing massive voter fraud, proving he actually won the popular vote.

Except, if your main purpose is to play to your base, it’s not horrible strategy. Here’s why: Radical right blogs, etc. report it as strength and bold resolve. Mainstream media reports it for the record. When Trump doesn’t deliver and “MSM” calls Trump out on it, his radical right friends say “there go those hysterical liberals again, just making a fuss because they can’t get over the fact Hillary lost.”

Yes, at some point this changes. But not yet.