Here We Go…

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Makes Major Move

The Wall Street Journal broke the story that Mueller impaneled and is now working through a grand jury in Washington, DC. The thrust of the investigation: Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 Presidential elections.

But the Washington Post, which confirms the existence of the grand jury, says the investigation has expanded beyond that and “now includes a look at whether President Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James B. Comey, as well as deep dives into financial and other dealings of former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.” We have pointed out that most of the members Mueller has brought to his team have expertise in chasing money trails.

Reuters further reports that a grand jury has issued subpoenas related to the meeting with Donald Trump, Jr and a Russian lawyer. It does not, however, specify who exactly has gotten a subpoena.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s point out while it certainly indicates Mueller’s investigation is intensifying, it does not necessarily mean criminal charges against anybody are coming soon. As the Post points out: “In federal cases, a grand jury is not necessarily an indication that an indictment is imminent or even likely. Instead, it is a powerful investigative tool that prosecutors use to compel witnesses to testify or force people or companies to turn over documents.”

Mueller and his team, who appear to be operating in a relatively leak-free environment (except, possibly to Reuters), had nothing to say about the reports. As we’ve pointed out before, when subpoenas are issued, it’s often the recipients that leak that info. In this case that might be because they don’t want to be seen as “ratting out” the President.

Trump Tells The Faithful In West Virginia, Russia Investigation Is “Fake” And “Demeaning”

Trump traveled to West Virginia for the second time in as many weeks, holding a campaign-style rally in the city of Huntington. West Virginia’s a great state for him: close enough to DC he can travel home after and sleep in his own bed; lots of support.

The President gleefully asked the crowd if there were any “Russians here tonight”? Receiving a resounding negative, he also asked: “Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia, or Ohio, or Pennsylvania?” The clip is here:

The rally nearly took on the tone of a religious revival, as the Governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, converted before the crowd’s eyes...from Democrat to Republican. The coal tycoon has a lot in common with Trump: ran as an outsider, inherited his business from his dad, owns a famous country club that hosts prestigious professional golf events.

President Trump Congratulates WV Governor Jim Justice on his “conversion”

In Leaked Transcripts Of Phone Conversations With World Leaders, Trump Freely Admits He Lied To Voters About “The Wall”, And Seems To Be Genuinely Afraid Of Foreigners

The transcripts, obtained by the Washington Post, give detailed accounts of phone conversations that took place between Trump and the President of Mexico, and Trump and the Prime Minister of Australia. The Post says it got them from “White House staffers.”

These Trump conversations, which happened right after he took office, had already been widely reported on as a result of earlier, partial leaks. Originally, Trump came across as brash and undisciplined, perhaps reckless, but with some righteous indigence. The perspective of the full transcripts paint a very different picture: a President woefully and willfully unprepared, and unwilling to listen, focused entirely on his own appearance. For instance, in his conversation with the President of Mexico, Trump’s singular focus is coaxing him to stop saying Mexico won’t pay for “the wall”, because it’s making Trump look bad.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait’s piece on the calls is ungraciously titled: “Australia’s Prime Minister Slowly Realizes Trump Is a Complete Idiot.” Seems to us like Trump just didn’t bother doing his homework, and then doesn’t bother with the fine points: only hearing he’s on the hook for taking in some refugees (he calls them “prisoners”.)

The Atlantic’s David Frum approaches from a very different angle, calling the leak “unprecedented, shocking, and dangerous” and suggesting there ought to be hell to pay for whomever leaked it. He argues that “no leader will again speak candidly on the phone to Washington” since they no longer can assume any confidentiality.

While we agree with him to some extent, we do feel we are temporarily operating under different parameters these days, because Trump, and our global partners will understand that.

Senate On Vacation, But Not In Recess

Senators will be on vacation today til Labor Day, but the Senate won’t be in recess. That’s to head off any recess appointments by President Trump. Pushing controversial appointments through during recesses is a favorite tool of Presidents because they bypass the normal approval process.

Republicans ran this play before: preventing President Obama from doing stuff. It generally involves a Senator from a nearby state like Delaware or Maryland popping in for a few minutes every few days to open and then immediately close a session.

Why We Think Trump May Not Kill Cost Sharing Payments To Health Insurers After All

He can’t sell it. His argument that the payouts amount to “BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies” isn’t sticking. It just looks like the President is taking insurance away from poor people out of spite.

The President has other, “better” options for making Obamacare implode. Like formally ordering the IRS to stop enforcing the individual and corporate mandates. Those are the penalties imposed if people and companies don’t buy insurance. He could argue that with premiums skyrocketing, it’s unfair to burden hard working Americans with those mandatory higher premiums. (While failing to mention that part of the reason premiums are going higher is uncertainty about what the President might try to pull.) This could resonate, especially with his base.

We won’t go so far as to predict that’s what will happen, because an angry President may be brazen enough to try anything and everything.

Secret Service Checks Out Of Trump Tower

The Secret Service has moved out of Trump Tower, and into a trailer on the street in a long-running dispute with the Trump Organization over rent. Don’t know much more really needs to be said about this.

Guess What? There Are Tapes Of Scaramucci’s Infamous Rant To The New Yorker

And here they are, for your weekend listening pleasure: