Happy Thursday, everyone—or, as a former colleague used to call it, Little Friday. Let’s jump right in. —Jeffrey C. Billman


Under normal circumstances, this would qualify as a bombshell, except I imagine most people assumed it to be the case after former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week: The Washington Postreported last night that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for obstruction of justice.

  • Nut graph: “Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.”
  • Here comes trouble. From the Post: “Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.” As Mike Allen of Axios explains, “Any obstruction probe requires context, which means investigators digging into the finances of [Michael] Flynn, Trump and Jared Kushner. This is the phase of the probe many Republicans have always feared most.”
  • FWIW: Yesterday afternoon, NBC News reported that “Senate intel leaders [Richard] Burr and [Mark] Warner just met with special counsel Mueller.”

KEY POINT: A spokesman for the president’s attorney blasted the “FBI leak” of this information as “outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” but it’s not at all clear from the story that the FBI was the source. Rather, it seems Mueller has asked to speak with senior intelligence officials whom Trump is thought to have pressured to spike the Russia investigation,including the heads of national intelligence and the NSA, and “five people briefed on the interview requests” spoke with reporters. That could be anyone from lawyers to aides. But the fact that the president’s attorney immediately attacked the investigators is significant, especially coupled with this, from a senior White House adviser.

WHAT’S NEXT: Even if Mueller finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it’s unclear whether a sitting president can be indicted; probably not, actually. Mueller would presumably refer his findings to Congress. But would the GOP House of Representatives impeach? Would the Senate muster the two-thirds supermajority necessary to convict? That seems unlikely. More likely is that some of the president’s associates will face indictment, or that the president will tire of this exercise and fire Mueller.

WHAT IT MEANS: The longer this investigation drags on, and the more completely it ensnares the administration, the harder it will be for Trump to get anything done. Or at least you’d think so. On the other hand, there’s a least a 50/50 shot that the Senate will pass an Obamacare repeal within the month.

Related: According to an AP poll, a large majority of Americans think Trump meddled in the Russia investigation. Because he obviously did.

Related: Richard Burr claims his Senate committee has been uncommonly transparent, and he’s not wrong.



Just before I published Primer yesterday, news broke that there had been a shooting at a congressional baseball practice and House majority leader Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, had been shot and wounded. Over the last twenty-four hours, we’ve learned quite a bit more: Four people were injured, including Scalise and two members of his Capitol Police security detail. The shooter, sixty-six-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, died after a shootout with police. Scalise was shot in the hip; the bullet broke bones and tore through internal organs. He is currently in critical condition. Hodgkinson was a fervent supporter of Bernie Sanders and an ardent critic of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

  • Mind of a shooter: The Belleview News-Democrat published a collection of Hodgkinson’s letters to the editor, in which he rails against income inequality and advocates for higher tax rates on the wealthy. The BND also published a profile on Hodgkinson, including personal tragedy (his foster daughter committed suicide by self-immolation in 1996) and domestic abuse (in 2006 he was arrested for assaulting his great-niece, over whom he had assumed guardianship, and two of her friends).

WHAT IT MEANS: To his credit, Bernie Sanders immediately denounced any use of violence to achieve political goals. But conservatives are likely to use this incident to counter the narrative that Trump and his white nationalist supporters have been fomenting violence and a virulent political atmosphere. Instead, you’ll hear talk about how “both sides” need to keep their rhetoric in check.

WHAT’S NEXT: Gun control? Ha. They’d sooner ban baseball.

Related:One of the Capitol police officers injured during the shootout was an N.C. Central grad.

Also related:A gunman killed three at a UPS facility in San Francisco yesterday.



THE GIST: On Tuesday, a committee at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Phoenix refused to move forward with a resolution, drafted by a prominent African-American preacher, to “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.” The reason, given by the head of the resolutions committee, was that the SBC—the largest Protestant denomination in the country, and a denomination that was rooted from the beginning in support for slavery and then segregation—did not want to use inflammatory language “potentially implicating” conservatives who do not support the alt-right. Yesterday, amid an outcry and with some pastors threatening to leave the denomination, the SBC passed a slightly different resolution, condemning “every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

IN CONTEXT: The church formally renounced its support of slavery and segregation in 1995, then apologized for it in 2009. The election of Donald Trump has exposed something of a schism in the largely white and very politically conservative denomination, with some old-guard Southern Baptists supporting Trump because of his views on abortion, while others view Trump’s abhorrent personal behavior as beyond the pale.



THE GIST: Specifically, the House is moving forward with a bill targeting people who drive slowly in the left lane. Under HB 827, law enforcement officers could issue $200 tickets to drivers “impeding the flow of traffic” in the left lane of a highway unless they’re passing or about to turn left. The bill easily cleared a judiciary committee, but it’s unclear where the Senate stands.

  • Money quote 1: “We are not trying to chase your grandma.” —Representative Duane Hall, D-Wake.
  • Money quote 2: The law will create situations in which grandmothers are passed by ““somebody waving at them with a middle finger, and the grandma is breaking the law by going the speed limit.” —Representative David Rogers, R-Burke and Rutherford.





Primer this week is sponsored by our friends at Beer Camp on Tour, in Raleigh on June 17. Click on the image below to purchase your tickets today!