Trump After Dark: No Cohen of Silence edition

President Donald Trump wanted access to documents from an FBI raid. Fox News personality Sean Hannity wanted to remain silent.

In the end, neither of attorney Michael Cohen’s clients got what he wanted.

With a plot twist that you could hardly script, Hannity was revealed as a mystery third client of Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney. The other two are Trump and former deputy RNC finance chairman Elliott Broidy, who resigned amid allegations he had an affair and paid more than $1 million to try and keep it quiet.

It’s not clear what Cohen did for Hannity, though the Fox News host has been pretty dogged in backing Cohen of late. But as POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein and Lauren Nahimas report, the revelation came amid an already incredible showdown between Trump and his own justice department over access to files seized in the raids on Cohen’s home and office last Continue reading “Trump After Dark: No Cohen of Silence edition”

Trump After Dark: ‘Untruthful slime ball’ edition

The James Comey media tour hadn’t even started, really, before President Donald Trump responded with anger and indignation.

Then the revelations started to leak out.

“He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!” Trump wrote in one of a series of tweets.

On a day chock full of news, even by the standards of the Trump administration, the president’s explosive anger toward Comey and another fired former FBI official, deputy director Andrew McCabe, stood out, POLITICO’s Matthew Nussbaum, Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook report.

“The presidential missives were triggered by the release of a Justice Department inspector general report to the Hill critical Continue reading “Trump After Dark: ‘Untruthful slime ball’ edition”

Trump supporters rip decision to strike Syria

Some of President Donald Trump’s staunchest backers tore into his decision to attack Syria late Friday night, arguing it was unnecessary, reactionary and even Clinton-esque.

In tweet storms and video responses, they compared Trump’s decision to attack Syrian targets to actions taken by President George W. Bush or a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton.

“We lost. War machine bombs syria. No evidence Assad did it. Sad warmongers hijacking our nation,” tweeted conservative author and radio host Michael Savage. Savage also posted a video discussing the missile strikes, tearing into Trump’s decision.

There was a clear sense of disappointment among a certain strand of Trump supporter as the president announced a “precision strike” against the regime of Bashar Assad on Friday in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack last week.

The anguish came from supporters who latched on to Trump’s “America first” promise during the campaign. They argued that Trump’s decision Continue reading “Trump supporters rip decision to strike Syria”

Trump After Dark: Jim Time edition

The book isn’t even out for another five days.

But James Comey’s media tour has arrived — and with it a crush of coverage sure to fire up President Donald Trump. Today, Comey’s views on Trump dripped out as excerpts of his yet-to-be-published book became public, POLITICO’s Cristiano Lima reports.

Among them: Comey’s recollection that Trump was obsessed with a salacious, unverified dossier about him; his belief that Trump is “untethered to the truth” and his decision to take a public role in the Clinton investigation because of a, as yet unknown development with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

And, there’s plenty more to come: “Comey sat down for five hours with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos this week for an exclusive interview, an edited version of which is set to air Sunday night, the first in a series of prominent appearances poised to dominate news cycles. Other stops on Comey’s Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Jim Time edition”

Trump After Dark: Casting a Paul edition

For a day, President Donald Trump was briefly overshadowed in Washington.

The timing of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement that he would be retiring was a rare, genuine surprise, POLITICO’s John Bresnahan and Rachael Bade report. And it had the effect of immediately complicating the lives of Republican leaders already facing stiff headwinds in midterm elections.

“Ryan originally intended to run for reelection and then retire after the midterm elections so he could continue raising money to protect the House GOP majority. Some senior Republicans worried that if he announced his intention to retire earlier, donors might hold back desperately needed cash in a tough midterm campaign.”

For Ryan, who has always had a fraught relationship with Trump, the decision seemed to define his tenure, POLITICO’s Jake Sherman reports.

A speakership that began with a reluctant ascent, when Ryan stepped in to replace John Boehner, evolved from a “rolling Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Casting a Paul edition”

Pompeo to downplay hawkish rep in face-off with senators

CIA Director Mike Pompeo will try to dismiss claims that he is an unrelenting hawk or “war hardliner” as he faces a key Senate panel Thursday in his bid to become secretary of state.

Pompeo will describe himself as a strong supporter of diplomacy while arguing that there is a “great deal of room” between military presence and war, according to complete prepared remarks he is expected to deliver before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which were obtained by POLITICO.

The Washington Post reported on excerpts of Pompeo’s remarks earlier Wednesday.

Pompeo plans to say that he will work with American allies to fix the Iran nuclear deal and push for more talks with North Korea about denuclearization. While still offering tough talk to Tehran in his prepared remarks, it’s a notable shift in tone for Pompeo who has long been a fierce critic of the Iran deal.

The prepared Continue reading “Pompeo to downplay hawkish rep in face-off with senators”

Trump After Dark: Zuck and Cover edition

For one day, at least, another billionaire shared scrutiny in Washington.

With President Donald Trump publicly raging over an FBI raid of his personal attorney’s offices, a contrite Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, took center stage on Capitol Hill. Zuckerberg faced a battery of questions from 44 senators, POLITICO’s Quint Forgey and Aubree Eliza Weaver report, uttering two important words: “I’m sorry.”

“Zuckerberg took responsibility for what happened with Cambridge Analytica — the British political consulting firm that collected the personal information of more than 80 million Facebook users and used it to influence voter opinions — and acknowledged his company’s shortcomings in its response.”

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he added. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Wall-to-wall coverage of Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Zuck and Cover edition”

Trump After Dark: Storms at Home and Abroad edition

President Donald Trump strongly hinted at imminent U.S. military action against Syria — on the same day his personal lawyer’s offices were raided by the FBI.

In a whirlwind of news, Trump then denounced special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The nation stood on the brink of significant military action as the president spoke before a strategy meeting in biting terms about Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a “witch hunt” targeting him.

“Trump said … that the United States had ‘a lot of options militarily’ about how to respond to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend,” POLITICO’s Rebecca Morin reports. Trump also strongly hinted that the U.S. would be taking military action soon.”

Meanwhile, the “Trump reacted angrily … after the FBI seized records from his longtime personal attorney, calling the law enforcement actions ‘disgraceful’ and part of “an attack on our country,” POLITICO’s Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Storms at Home and Abroad edition”

Trump After Dark: Will He Get Pruitt edition

Can EPA administrator Scott Pruitt hold on?

Embroiled in a series of ethics scandals, from his use of first class plane tickets to a cushy rental agreement with an industry lobbyist, the White House said of Pruitt today that it was “reviewing the situation.”

Pruitt and his allies have launched a fierce campaign to save his job, arguing that he is carrying out Trump’s deregulatory agenda, POLITICO’s Emily Holden, Alex Guillen and Andrew Restuccia report. It’s included a media tour that’s focused on conservative media and some chest thumping about his success in enacting a conservative agenda.

““We are getting things done and that’s what’s driving these folks crazy, and I will tell you, the truth and the facts are on our side," he said. "And we’re just going to keep pushing and keep telling the story and trusting the American people get it."

It may not be Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Will He Get Pruitt edition”

Trump After Dark: Guard Up edition

President Donald Trump is calling for a human wall, of sorts.

Frustrated by the slow pace of funding and construction on a border wall along the southern border, President Trump said he will send the military to the U.S.-Mexico border, POLITICO’s Louis Nelson and Cristiano Lima report.

It amounted to a significant escalation of his immigration policy.

“The move would ramp up Trump’s battle over immigration, after he has run into hurdles carrying out his campaign-trail promise to build a wall at Mexico’s expense. Most recently, he has been preoccupied by a group of migrants, mostly from Honduras, making their way north through Mexico toward the U.S.”

As Trump himself put it during press conference with : “We are going to be guarding our border with our military. That’s a big step,” Trump said on Tuesday during a session at the White House with the leaders Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Guard Up edition”

Trump After Dark: Tweet Decking edition

President Donald Trump was back at it today — firing off tweets at a range of targets from Mexico to his own Department of Justice.

Same as it ever was.

“Trump was unsparing in his Twitter-based attacks … calling the Justice Department and FBI an “embarrassment to our country,” slamming the news media, taking on retail giant Amazon and blaming Democrats for a “dead” DACA program, POLITICO’s Matthew Nussbaum reports. “The outburst came as Trump returned to Washington in what is expected to be a relatively quiet week, with Congress away and few major events scheduled. Some in the White House viewed the attacks as an outgrowth of that unfilled time.”

The vitriol poured out on the same morning that Trump briefly attended the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Elsewhere in President Trump’s orbit:

WAITING TO PRUITT: White House chief of staff John Kelly has considered firing EPA Administrator Scott Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Tweet Decking edition”

Trump After Dark: He’s Living Pruitt edition

So far, ethical problems or apparent personal beefs with President Donald Trump have helped to fell three Cabinet secretaries. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt isn’t one of them.

In recent days, POLITICO’s Alex Guillen reports, there’s been a slow drip of negative news about the former Oklahoma attorney general. There have been questions raised about the excessive costs of his travel, his use of first class accommodations, unusual spending and, more recently, an under-market Capitol Hill lease.

No matter. So far, the White House has kept Pruitt — who has stuck to Trump’s agenda — out of the firing range.

“Unlike other Cabinet members who have gotten the ax from Trump, such as ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Pruitt has not obstructed the president’s conservative agenda or actively criticized his leadership. Instead, he praises Trump on Fox News and elsewhere every chance Continue reading “Trump After Dark: He’s Living Pruitt edition”

Trump After Dark: Shulk it Off edition

After weeks of speculation, President Donald Trump is ousting his Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin, and replacing him with White House physician Ronny Jackson.

It’s another significant shakeup of Trump’s Cabinet, albeit one that he’s telegraphed, POLITICO’s Arthur Allen and Matthew Nussbaum report.

“Shulkin’s exit was expected, though the timing was not known, after he antagonized the White House with a scandal over a taxpayer-financed trip to Europe last summer and engaged in open warfare with conservatives in his agency.”

Shulkin’s ouster comes after weeks of negative press — and private musings from Trump. He joins a list of recently departed top-level aides that now includes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

In his replacement, Trump has selected a well-regarded doctor but someone with little to no experience running a bureaucracy, but who drew attention last year for assuaging concerns about Trump’s health.

Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Shulk it Off edition”

Trump After Dark: Time to Bolt edition

President Donald Trump’s decision to appoint John Bolton as national security adviser may be having its desired effect: Democrats are fearful about what it means and everyone is puzzling over how it will shake up the White House’s priorities.

In tandem with the appointment of a fellow hawk, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, to lead the State Department Bolton’s appointment could signal a tough new rhetorical line on “radical Islam,” POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi reports.

“Both Bolton and Pompeo will now be working for a president who has alleged, with no evidence, that American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks, and who has proposed banning all foreign Muslims from U.S. shores. Critics say the personnel moves suggest Trump’s worst instincts on how to approach the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims will find receptive ears among his foreign policy aides.”

Democrats aren’t exactly taking a wait-and-see approach. They’re freaking out.

POLITICO’s Susan Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Time to Bolt edition”

Trump After Dark: The H.R. Department edition

Soon. Not quite yet. Eventually?

The prolonged goodbye of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster has a familiar pattern to it: Rumors swirl, potential replacements are floated and then — no immediate action from President Trump. Perhaps even a White House denial.

Getting “Tillersoned,” as POLITICO’s Eliana Johnson and Matthew Nussbaum report.

“Like now-former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, whom the president dismissed earlier this week, McMaster has never clicked with the president, who prizes personal chemistry and likes to shoot the breeze. And as with the secretary of state, the president decided months ago amid disagreements over his Afghanistan strategy that McMaster wouldn’t be a permanent fixture in his administration.”

But, as the week wound down into the weekend McMaster was still there.

Programming note: Trump After Dark is taking a spring break. We’ll see you back here March 26.

Elsewhere in President Trump’s orbit:

Continue reading “Trump After Dark: The H.R. Department edition”

Trump After Dark: Upset Alert edition

President Donald Trump’s version of March Madness: A week of shuffling staff and, perhaps, a controversial policy proposal.

As POLITICO’s Dan Diamond reports, President Trump is finalizing a plan for opioids that includes the death penalty for dealers. It’s part of an ambitious plan to address the opioid epidemic — a topic that Trump has said is a top priority.

“The ambitious plan, which the White House has quietly been circulating among political appointees this month, could be announced as soon as Monday when President Donald Trump visits New Hampshire, a state hard hit by the epidemic. It includes a mix of prevention and treatment measures that advocates have long endorsed, as well as beefed-up enforcement in line with the president’s frequent calls for a harsh crackdown on drug traffickers and dealers.”

The part likely to grab headlines, however, is Trump’s call for the highest punishment for dealers Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Upset Alert edition”

Trump After Dark: Who Kud it Be Now edition

Trump administration departures have dominated headlines. But today President Donald Trump showed the revolving door works both ways with the White House confirming Larry Kudlow as the new top economic aide at the White House.

Kudlow is a CNBC personality who has informally advised Trump. His smooth TV appearances are part of the reason he was selected, POLITICO’s Ben White reports, and he will assume the role of head of the National Economic Council vacated by the departing Gary Cohn.

In Kudlow, White notes, the president is getting a committed free-trader — much like the departing Cohn.

“Kudlow, a … former Democrat who served in the Reagan administration, is expected to start in the next few days. He will immediately find himself in conflict with Trump advisers who have strong protectionist tendencies, including trade adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.”

Kudlow is expected to start soon, possibly Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Who Kud it Be Now edition”

Trump After Dark: What a Rex edition

With the possible exception of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, no Cabinet member has felt the withering scorn of President Donald Trump’s more than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Today, Trump put him out of his misery, leaving him flat-footed for good measure.

Just as he dispensed with his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump used Twitter to lower the boom on Tillerson. The former ExxonMobil CEO has has rankled both the rank-and-file at Foggy Bottom and, seemingly from the get go, Trump.

The president said he would replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo — a plan that first made rounds months ago, before the New Year — another sign of Tillerson’s tortured Washington existence.

“The move was fraught with the miscommunications and contradictions that have characterized the relationship between Trump and Tillerson from the outset,” POLITICO’s Eliana Johnson reports. “While a White House aide said chief of staff Continue reading “Trump After Dark: What a Rex edition”

Trump After Dark: Closing in the House edition

So, that settles it right?

The House Intelligence Committee moved today to shutdown its investigation of Russian election interference, declaring that there was no evidence of collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Moscow, POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney reports.

The findings contradict, in some key ways, the conclusions of intelligence agencies — the GOP-controlled panel did not find that Russia deliberately boosted Trump’s campaign, but rather wanted to sow discord generally.

And the move to end the probe set off political fireworks right away.

“Democrats erupted in anger after they were blindsided by the summary GOP officials released Monday. ‘By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the president over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly,’ said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee.”

President Trump, for his part, tweeted Continue reading “Trump After Dark: Closing in the House edition”

Trump After Dark: The Big Un edition

President Donald Trump’s most daring foreign policy gamble reverberated today, as diplomats, world observers and the political class picked over his willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Yesterday’s stunning announcement that Trump had accepted an invitation to meet with the man he’s derided as a “little Rocket Man” shook the world.

It was also, as POLITICO’s Michael Crowley explains, classic Trump. A bold move — a willingness to “say the things others wouldn’t; do the things they didn’t dare.”

“Trump’s taboo-breaking instinct was most recently on clear display in his December decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel … Trump officials say (previous leaders’ unwillingness to do so) was a key factor behind the president’s thinking, something he made clear in a Dec. 6 statement from the White House: ‘While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” Continue reading “Trump After Dark: The Big Un edition”