Already facing an obstruction-of-justice investigation after asking former FBI director Jim Comey to back off the Russia probe—then firing him when he didn’t—Trump is still at it. As The New York Times reports, the president has been asking Republican senators, including North Carolina’s Richard Burr, the head of the intelligence committee, to wrap up their Russia probes.
- “President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a
half dozenlawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end.”
- “Mr. Trump’s requests of lawmakers to end the Senate investigation came during a period in the summer when the president was particularly consumed with Russia and openly raging at his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from any inquiries into Russian meddling in the election. Mr. Trump often vented to his own aides and even declared his innocence to virtual strangers he came across on his New Jersey golf course. In this same period, the president complained frequently to Mr. McConnell about not doing enough to bring the investigation to an end, a Republican official close to the leader said.”
- “Mr. Trump also called other lawmakers over the summer with requests that they push Mr. Burr to finish the inquiry, according to a Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss his contact with the president. This senator, who was alarmed upon hearing
wordof the president’s pleas, said Mr. Trump’s request to the other senators was clear: They should urge Mr. Burr to bring the Russia investigation to a close.”
- And yet, Burr is still defending him: “Mr. Burr said he did not feel pressured by the president’s appeal, portraying it as the action of someone who has ‘never been in government.’”
WHAT IT MEANS: The president has been president for more than ten months, almost a fourth of his term. During the summer, when he was making these requests, he was under fire for firing Comey. The idea that this is fine because he doesn’t know any better is beyond asinine. Burr covering for him illustrates the degree to which Republicans will bend themselves in circles to protect their president.
BIG NEWS FOR DTR: THEN&O IS MOVING (DOWN THE STREET).
The News & Observer has sold its downtown South McDowell Street HQ, a three-acre site that has been its home since 1907—for $22 million. (The new—and, let’s be honest, ugly as sin—building went on that spot in 1956.) The new owners are a California-based investment firm, Acquisition Group, that will redevelop the property into—wait for it—a mixed-use complex, with stores, offices, (no doubt expensive) housing, and a hotel. The N&O, meanwhile, will move a few blocks down the road, to the seventeen-story One City Plaza, sometime next year.
- “The agreement was reached after a previous deal to sell the N&O property–announced in late 2015 as a $20.2 million sale to local investors–ended in disappointment for all parties in January 2017. Discussions with Acquisition Group began soon after, said N&O President and Publisher Sara Glines, who came to The News & Observer in September 2016. In an interview, Glines said she was excited about the final agreement. ‘I think it was crucial for us to stay downtown,’ Glines said. ‘I just think we need to be connected really deeply to Raleigh and Raleigh downtown and, more broadly, to the Triangle region. To do that you have to be part of the center of things.’”
- “In its new home, The N&O’s newsroom will be at street level. Advertising and other business operations of the company will be on the 14th floor. In all, about 175 employees will make the move.”
- Acquisition Group president Sam Sotoodeh “was in the news last year when he and another man protested Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars because the athlete had concocted a story about being robbed at gunpoint during the Olympic Games in Rio. The men were in the audience wearing anti-Lochte T-shirts and reportedly approached the stage.”
WHAT IT MEANS: At this point, it’s hard to get excited about yet another mixed-use complex in downtown, but, on the other hand, higher density and more retail space is probably a good thing, although I imagine this new development will do precisely squat for the city’s affordability crisis. It is unequivocally good news, however, that the city’s paper of record is staying downtown, rather than moving to cheaper confines in Cary or Garner or someplace like that.
This post was excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.