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So much news has broken on the Trump-Russia front over the last twenty-four hours that it’s hard to keep it all straight. First, a rundown, then we’ll dive in deeper:
- The U.S. intelligence community had evidence that seven state websites or voter registration systems were compromised by Russian operatives ahead of the 2016 election but never told the states involved: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Washington.
- Special counsel Robert Mueller has dropped some charges against Paul Manafort associate and Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, in exchange for his testimony and cooperation.
- White House communications director Hope Hicks refused to answer questions about the Trump administration to House investigators, but she did admit to telling “white lies” on the president’s behalf.
- The head of the U.S. Cyber Command told lawmakers that President Trump has given him no new authorities or capabilities to strike at Russian cyber-operations ahead of the midterm elections.
- In their interviews in the Russia investigation, Mueller and company have been asking Trump associates about the president’s financial dealings as he weighed a run for president: “Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller have recently been asking witnesses about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 presidential campaign as he considered a run for president, according to three people familiar with the matter. Questions to some witnesses during wide-ranging interviews included the timing of Trump’s decision to seek the presidency, potentially compromising information the Russians may have had about him, and why efforts to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through, two sources said.”
- Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his top-secret security clearance yanked by
chiefof staff John Kelly, which would prevent him from accessing the Presidential Daily Brief.
- Part of the reason for that? From WaPo: “Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law
andsenior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter. Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.”
- The Trump family is angry at John Kelly over the clearance issue. As one White House official told Axios: “Javanka [meaning Jared and Ivanka] and Kelly are locked in a death match. Two enter. Only one survives.”
WHAT IT MEANS:Whew. A lot to unpack here. The overarching takeaway is that, contrary to the White House’s claims, this likely isn’t a matter that will end quickly with Trump’s full exoneration. Mueller dropped charges against Gates for a reason. He’s also probing Trump’s business dealings with Russia for a reason. Jared’s clearance was held up for a reason—a good one, according to the Post story, as he may be compromised by foreign officials. Beyond that, it seems odd that Trump won’t allow his cyber-security chief to try to prevent more Russian interference. So what does this mean for the administration?
- More infighting among White House factions, as each blames the other for the disarray.
- More Trump outbursts on Twitter, calling the Russia investigation a “WITCHHUNT!”
- Most important, more indictments. Mueller’s not done yet. The only question is how far up the food chain he goes.