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Morning Briefing: Donald Trump Opens Up Another Can of Worms, Dumps Them All Over Himself

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 21, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 21, 2017 |

It was a quiet night in politics last night until I went to a late screening of Dunkirk (Pahle will have a review later today), and when I walked out around midnight and checked my phone, everything had gone to hell again, thanks to similar reports from both The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Here’s what’s going on, in a nutshell:

— Trump has been discussing with his lawyers his pardoning powers, asking if he can pardon his family members, and even asking if he can pardon himself. Why would he need to ask such a thing? It probably has to do with the financial transactions Trump has made that he specifically asked Bob Mueller to stay away from. And can the President pardon himself? The law is uncertain because NO ONE HAS EVER TRIED TO DO THAT, but most likely, a President cannot.

— Trump and his legal team are trying to build opposition to Bob Mueller by pointing out as many conflicts of interests as possible. So far, all they have come up with is that several members of Mueller’s team donated to Hillary Clinton (which legally does not create a conflict of interest) and apparently that Bob Mueller quit one of Trump’s golf clubs five or six years ago (Mueller says there is no dispute). Oh, and that Trump interviewed Mueller for the FBI position, although Trump has yet to explain why that is a conflict of interest.

— All of this, of course, is being done in an effort to smear Mueller and discredit his findings. It won’t work with 65 percent of the country, but that Trump base? Who knows? They may also be laying the groundwork to fire Mueller, which would kick up a political firestorm the likes of which this country hasn’t seen since Nixon.

— Interestingly, Mark Corallo — the spokesperson for Trump’s legal team — resigned from his position on the same day that all of these leaks came out. Reportedly, he resigned because he thought it was a terrible idea to go negative on Bob Mueller, and because he thought the White House wasn’t being honest with him.

— Meanwhile, Marc Kasowitz — Trump’s longtime lawyer, who had taken the lead on the Russian probe — was not exactly fired yesterday, but he was “fired.” His role has been “diminished.” (That’s another word for fired.)

— There was one potential hire: Anthony Scaramucci is expected to be hired as the new Communications Director. Scaramucci, by the way, was the target of the CNN story that was retracted a few weeks ago that got CNN in so much trouble (the reporters were fired or they resigned because CNN didn’t have their back— it’s not clear, and it’s also not clear that the story wasn’t planted as a trap for CNN). In either respect, Scaramucci’s hire is another blow to Sean Spicer’s position in the White House.

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— Don Jr. and Paul Manafort have not accepted their invitations to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, but they will. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and ranking member Diane Feinstein have said they would use their subpoena powers should they fail to appear. That’s going to be interesting: What’s Trump’s twitter feed going to look like while his son is in the hot seat? And Don Jr. is not good at the talking.

— Finally, a quick follow-up on Sessions:

Jeff Sessions is a terrible, horrible no good man, so it says something when Senator Elizabeth Warren is defending Sessions right now:

“I opposed Jeff Sessions for attorney general of the United States, but let’s be clear, his recusing himself is simply following the law. That is what the Department of Justice requires. He followed the rules,” Warren continued.

“And for Donald Trump to say ‘Gee, I really wanted an attorney general who wouldn’t follow the rules,’ is just, like I said it’s one more example. Donald Trump has only one thing in mind: How can everything profit Donald Trump,” she said.

That said, Warren did also say that she’d be happy if Sessions quit (me too!)

— Oh, one other quick thing: Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not deny that there could have been additional undisclosed meetings between Trump and Putin at the G20.

Header: Andrea Savage. I know we’ve banged the drum on her new show I’m Sorry a few times, but it can’t be banged enough. It’s fantastic, basically an It’s Always Sunny for parents.

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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.