Morning Briefing: Savvy Bob Mueller Playing the Long Game with Trump; Betsy DeVos Is an Embarrassment
Good morning all from Austin, where we’re in the midst of the SXSW film festival (look for lots of coverage this week). Here’s what’s going on in the world of politics:
— Yesterday, deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah said something stupid on the newsmagazine This Week:
“There’s been zero evidence, after a year of investigation, that we’ve seen of actual collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The president, who would be aware of any types of efforts, has been pretty clear, understands and knows that there is no collusion.”
That statement suggests that if Mueller does find collusion between Russia and any member of the Trump campaign, that Trump would know about it, which means that Shah basically added a potential conspiracy charge to Trump’s growing number of potential crimes. Good job, deputy White House press secretary!
— One of those other charges is obstruction of justice, which Robert Mueller is reportedly considering putting off for the time being so that he can continue his collusion investigation. Mueller fears that if he brings obstruction charges now, Trump might shut down the investigation or witnesses may be less likely to cooperate. So, he’s going to continue on with the collusion investigation. He has plenty of evidence of obstruction, however.
— Meanwhile, we know that Lebanese-American businessman George Nader has sold out Jared Kushner to Bob Mueller on potential illicit activities. Apparently, Qatari officials have plenty of evidence of Kushner’s bad deed there, as well, but they’re choosing not to release it for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration.
Another way to look at that, however, is that Qatar is blackmailing the Trump administration’s head and may be able to leverage that evidence in its relationship with the Trump administration.
— All that big talk from Trump about gun reform a couple of weeks ago has failed to materialize. The White House has laid out a series of proposals to deal with mass shootings in schools. Those proposals are short on detail, save for the proposal to train teachers to carry guns in school. So, clearly, Trump is as afraid of the NRA as his Republican colleagues (he couldn’t even muster a proposal to raise the gun buying age to 21, as he has been promising, choosing to leave that “to the states.”).
Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!…….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
….On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
Of note: The White House didn't propose giving states any new funding for the “rigorous firearms training." https://t.co/zYbtGGgbcP— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) March 12, 2018
— Betsy DeVos is super dumb, you guys.
Michigan, which DeVos has helped turn into the Wild West of school choice, recently posted largest decline in 3rd grade reading of 11 states taking same test. Half of Detroit’s kids are in charters — 90 % students not proficient in reading. She struggled b/c NO EVIDENCE IT WORKS. https://t.co/MJ0PYL5AmW— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) March 12, 2018
Also, this statement is not gonna sit well with Trump.
Asked about Trump calling Chuck Todd “a son of a bitch,” Betsy DeVos says, “I think we all have an opportunity to be examples to our kids.” @SavannahGuthrie: Would that include the president?— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) March 12, 2018
DeVos: “That would include the president as well.” https://t.co/D2TKIXAOzO
This may seem minor, but DeVos is out on a limb here. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended Trump's comments *to Chuck Todd* this weekend, telling Todd "there were a lot of funny moments," in a speech that used vulgarities to describe Todd. https://t.co/ApEzDdvipu— DJ Judd (@juddzeez) March 12, 2018
— Finally, here’s Politico on what Gary Cohn’s departure means for the White House:
Some worry the White House could return to the uncontrolled days immediately following Trump’s inauguration, when many West Wing jobs were still unfilled and former strategist Steve Bannon was writing executive orders with policy adviser Stephen Miller, including the disastrous travel ban that was ultimately knocked down by multiple courts.
“The number of bad ideas that have come though this White house that were thankfully killed dead — there are too many to count,” a White House official told POLITICO. “With Gary gone, I just think, from a policy perspective, it means disaster.”
You mean, it could get worse?