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Monday’s Dispatch: Robert Mueller is safe, sort of
Presidential tweets over the weekend, coupled with reports of newfound disdain for special counsel Robert Mueller within the White House suggested President Donald Trump may try to fire the special counsel. Trump at times over the past 48 hours appeared close to pursuing a path of action that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday would bring “the beginning of the end of his presidency.”
Ultimately, Trump did not make any moves to oust Mueller. However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions did fire former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Friday night, two days before McCabe was scheduled to retire. Trump called that move a “great day for democracy” — an important message for Sessions who has lately been a target of Trump’s criticism. Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney John Dowd told media outlets the president should in fact fire Mueller.
In a tweet, Trump called for an end to the “witch hunt” Mueller probe, and later said the investigation is partisan, as it includes “zero Republicans.” Mueller, and for that matter, former FBI Director James Comey, are Republicans.
Strong reactions from Republicans came quickly, likely contributing to Trump backing down from his latest attacks on Mueller’s investigation. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said it was “critical” Mueller’s probe continue “unimpeded.”
“It’s very important he be able to do his job without interference and there are many Republicans who share my view,” Graham said Sunday on CNN. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) laid out a defense of Mueller on Fox News Sunday and encouraged Trump to keep Mueller.
However, most Republicans have not necessarily put their words into action. Two Senate bills that would protect Mueller from being fired Trump have official support from only two Republicans — Sens. Graham and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) The Special Counsel Integrity Act and Special Counsel Independence Protection Act have made almost zero progress since their introduction in August 2017.
Furthermore, Republicans like McCain and Graham have become known to critique Trump, while Gowdy is not running for re-election. See this list of which Republicans did and did not respond to Trump’s latest threats against Mueller. The vast majority of Republicans have not indicated what they will do if Trump fires Mueller.
“I don’t think the House can do a lot” if Trump fires Mueller, Gowdy said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said Mueller should be protected, but hasn’t offered specifics on how he would respond if Trump fired Mueller. Ryan’s top deputy, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was one of many Republicans saying in January, “I don’t think there’s a need” for legislation to protect Mueller — even though 6 in 10 Americans support passing a law to protect Mueller, according to a February CNN poll.
Today’s question: Do you think Congress should act to protect Mueller?
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
This week in Trump’s America:
Shutdown watch: Congress will release its annual spending bill on Monday, ahead of Friday’s deadline to pass legislation to keep the government open. It’s a final opportunity for legislators to use the must-pass bill to pursue their pet issues before the midterm election.
Democrats and Republicans are divided over whether to include funds to shore up Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. Trump is also refusing to support a New York-New Jersey tunnel project supported by lawmakers from those states. And liberals want legislation to cut funding for immigration enforcement.
Pelosi siren: From incumbent House Democrats to first-time candidates running for the House in 2018, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faces a serious challenge to her authority. Opponents in Congress are lining up bids to oppose her leadership, and some Democratic candidates are saying they won’t support her leadership.
Opioid failure: Congress sent states hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the opioid crisis — and most of it is unspent: $500 million allocated in late 2016 has gone unspent, following mixed signals from the Trump administration and a failure of states to implement programs, Politico reported.
Senate races: Republican candidates in competitive states are embracing Trump, despite his low approval ratings. Trump nudged Danny Tarkanian out of a primary bid against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), showing his ability to influence competitive races.
Vladimir Putin: The Russian leader won another six years as the country’s president with more than 70% of the vote after Sunday’s election. Putin’s victory comes as Western governments like the United Kingdom and the United States have partially severed diplomatic ties or increased sanctions on Russia.
Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, said Russia has been stockpiling a deadly nerve agent for the past decade. If true, this would violate international chemical weapons laws.
New Hampshire: Trump will deliver a speech about the opioid crisis in New Hampshire on Monday. He is there in an official role, but the visit is also seen as an effort to head off a potential primary challenge in 2020. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, have been top Trump critics and recent visitors to New Hampshire — which holds the nation’s first presidential primary.
What data Cambridge Analytica gathered, and how well Facebook protects users data, has come under scrutiny from U.S. and British lawmakers.
In Trump’s mind: New York magazine delves into how critical former White House communications director Hope Hicks was to Trump — and how difficult it may be for him with Hicks no longer at the White House.
CIA fight: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced stiff opposition to the nominations of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and Gina Haspel as CIA director. Paul said he’ll do “whatever it takes” to block their nominations, including filibuster, over his concerns with Haspel’s record overseeing torture programs during the George W. Bush administration.
March for our Lives: More than 800 marches are now planned internationally on Saturday to demand an end to gun violence in schools. The event, spurred by survivors of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, school shooting, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, D.C., alone.