Morning Briefing: Who Will Resign During the Friday Afternoon News Dump This Week?
Here’s the morning rundown:
+ I don’t know how much longer Jared Kushner can possibly stay in his job. He’s lost his security clearance. Bob Mueller is breathing down his neck, and every day, it seems there’s a revelation about another meeting he had to find investments in his distressed company while acting in his official capacity as a White House Advisor. For instance, now we are learning that he pitched Qatar’s minister of finance on an investment in Kushner Companies. There was a 30-minute meeting, and follow up meeting the next day. The investment fell through, and a month later, Kushner aided Qatar’s neighboring countries in establishing a blockade against Qatar. There’s also the matter of a $184 million loan he secured from someone who he offered a W.H. job. Apparently, even Donald Trump wants him out, and as I correctly predicted the other day, he’s encouraging John Kelly to help push him out.
Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.
How does Kushner feel when he reads in the NYTimes that his father-in-law is trying to push him out? There was a point about a month ago in which Kushner, Ivanka, Hope Hicks, Rob Porter and Josh Raffel had formed a powerful block in the White House. Now? Hicks, Porter, and Raffel are gone, and Kushner is on the ropes (I should note, too, that Dina Powell — who also resigned relatively recently — was also part of the Kushner block, along with Gary Cohn, who hates this tariff business and may be looking for an out, as well.).
+ Meanwhile, according to Buzzfeed, there are also a lot of lower-level staffers trying to get the hell out of the White House, but no one will hire them.
“Things are still pretty bleak inside the White House,” the source said. “I’ve talked to several people in the last week trying to find a way out, but they can’t get out because no one is really hiring people with Trump White House experience. Not a fun time to say the least.”
+ There are also conflicting reports about H.R. McMaster. One report yesterday suggested that John Kelly and General Mattis had arranged for McMaster to leave, but there has been some pushback on that report in the White House. I think everyone knows that McMaster wants to leave, and that Trump wants him to leave, but I suspect there’s not much in the way of contingency plan once he does leave, and what will it matter? Trump won’t listen to his National Security Advisor anyway.
+ In the wake of Trump’s gun reform meeting the other day, the White House is already walking back many of Trump’s announced positions, while the NRA talked to Trump and apparently left the meeting under the belief that Trump no longer had any desire to push gun reform. Sarah Sanders has also pushed back on that.
After meeting, NRA lobbyist tweeted that Trump doesn’t want gun control and supports due process, while Trump spokesperson says he stands by the pro-gun-control, anti-due-process things he said Wednesday. https://t.co/IaLkCzCzMN— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 2, 2018
Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters this morning that the president called the NRA and arranged the Oval Office meeting yesterday. But she says his views on gun policy hasn't changed, and the things he said Wednesday still stand.— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) March 2, 2018
As always, what Trump says is meaningless. We just don’t know. Either way, it doesn’t matter at this point because Mitch McConnell has decided not to pursue any gun legislation at this time, preferring instead to take up the very important issue of, uh, banking.
+ There’s also a piece on Andrew McCabe in the Times that is drawing a lot of attention, and that Trump will likely use against the FBI. Apparently, McCabe authorized disclosures to the media — specifically The Wall Street Journal — about a rift in the FBI where it concerned the investigation into Hillary Clinton, the emails, and the Clinton Foundation. What’s most interesting here, however, is that Trump often derided McCabe because his wife — running for office as a Democrat — accepted contributions from Clinton pal, Terry McAuliffe. However, McCabe is a lifelong Republican, and McCabe apparently tried to press ahead with an investigation into the Clinton Foundation but got pushback from within the FBI.
+ Finally, there’s still the matter of this very bizarre, very quiet case that has the potential to steamroll into something. Read the entire Times piece on it, because I can’t possibly summarize it here, but here is your entry point:
Anastasia Vashukevich. She is a Belarusian woman, a self-described “sex expert,” who is now in a Thai jail and who claims, in a desperate Instagram video, to be the “the missing link in the connection between Russia and the U.S. elections.”
It sounds, of course, like an outrageous scam, and perhaps it is. But Vashukevich, who goes by the alias Nastya Rybka, has a documented link to Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who figures prominently in one of the scandals surrounding the Trump campaign. Indeed, that link may be why she’s locked up in the first place. Whether you believe her or not, her bizarre, sordid story offers real clues to the chain connecting Trump’s circle to the highest level of the Russian government.