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Morning Briefing: How's that Winning News Cycle Treating You Now, Donny Trash?

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | April 4, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | April 4, 2019 |


Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have stories up today sourced from folks inside the special counsel’s office who, unsurprisingly, say that AG William Barr mischaracterized the Mueller report, downplaying the significance of, particularly, the obstruction of justice findings.

But members of Mueller’s team have complained to close associates that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant.

“It was much more acute than Barr suggested,” said one person, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity.

What’s also interesting is that Mueller’s team actually prepared their own summary of their findings — excluding classified material and grand-jury findings — under the belief that it would be released to the public. Barr — who wrote a memo last year arguing that presidents could not be accused of obstruction of justice — decided to write his own summary of the special counsel’s summary and make his own conclusions, which are almost certainly partisan and at odds with Mueller’s findings.

The report will eventually come out and I believe Trump is going to regret celebrating the findings of the Mueller report in an effort to win one news cycle. Recall that, in the days after the Barr letter was released, Trump repeatedly said that he was wrong about Mueller, that he was a good man, etc., etc. In the meantime, his personal attorney, Rudy Guilianni, is already returning to the pre-Barr letter talking points. “They are a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers,” he said last night on Fox News. “And they are rabid Democrats who hate the president of United States.” Meanwhile, Trump — who had previously welcomed the release of the Mueller report — is beginning to backtrack on that. For the President, I expect this will be another one of those news stories that continues to hang over him, politically killing him by paper cut.

In related news, the House Democrats yesterday finally requested from the IRS Trump’s tax returns, dating back six years, as well as information about whether he was actually under audit. The Democrats are exercising a little-used provision in the tax law that allows them to request tax returns from anyone. While there is no wiggle room in that provision, it is expected that Trump and the House will battle this out in the courts.

Meanwhile, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings is also requesting a briefing regarding the security at Mar-a-Lago, after a woman basically walked into Mar-a-Lago with a thumb drive carrying malicious software. The woman, by the way, came in under the guise of attending an event advertised by Li “Cindy” Yang, the Florida massage parlor owner who once owned the massage parlor where Patriot’s owner Bob Kraft got a handjob. The issue raises more concerns about Trump basically exploiting his presidency for financial gain — members (and many non-members) can come and go as they please, and the Secret Service often defers to the Mar-a-Lago staff. Obviously, if this woman — who was sloppy as hell — can walk into Mar-a-Lago, imagine what someone who knows what they’re doing could do (or has already done).

Elsewhere, the House is set to vote on renewing the popular Violence Against Women Act act this week, the 1994 bill co-sponsored by Joe Biden. However, the Democrats have added a provision designed to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which bars those convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a woman from buying a firearm. The N.R.A. is obviously opposed, which means that Republicans in the House are going to have to decide whether to support women or the N.R.A. Unfortunately, while the reauthorization is expected to pass in the House, the Senate will likely strip the boyfriend provision and attempt to reauthorize without changes.

Finally, I love this, and I hope that journalists continue to ask White House officials at every opportunity whether they, too, believe — as the President wrongly does — that wind turbines cause cancer.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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