Day 446: "Why don't I just fire Mueller?"

1/ Michael Cohen is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and violations of campaign finance law. Two potential crimes – bank and wire fraud – suggest prosecutors believe Cohen may have misled bankers about his use of certain funds or improperly used banks to transfer funds. Among the documents taken in Monday's FBI raids on Cohen's office, home and hotel room were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to Stormy Daniels. (Washington Post)

  • Lou Dobbs urged Trump to fire Robert Mueller in response to the raid of Michael Cohen's offices. "This is now a man that has to be brought under control, it would seem to me," Dobbs said. "Frankly, I can't imagine ― because each of us has to come to terms with our own heart and conscience ― I would fire the SOB in three seconds if it were me." (HuffPost)

  • "Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens," Trump said. "But I think it's really a sad situation, when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him." (CNN / Politico)

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said "it would be suicide for the President to fire" Mueller. "I think the less the President says about this whole thing, the better off he will be. And I think Mueller is a person of stature and respected and I respect him. Just let the thing go forward." (CNN)

  • Trump "certainly believes" he has the power to fire Robert Mueller, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The White House's stance on firing Mueller has been rejected by many legal experts who say Trump does not have the power to fire the special counsel directly. Sanders later added that "we've been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision." (CNBC / The Hill)

  • The White House is "not sure" if Cohen still represents Trump. (The Guardian)

2/ Rod Rosenstein signed off on the FBI's decision to raid Cohen's office. Agents were looking, in part, for records about payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, as well as information related to the publisher of The National Enquirer's role in silencing one of the women. Rosenstein, a Republican prosecutor, was picked by Trump to serve as deputy attorney general. The interest in both Daniels and McDougal indicates that federal investigators are trying to determine whether any crimes were committed in the course of buying their silence. (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Federal prosecutors asked the Trump Organization for records related to the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen. The request came in connection with FBI raids on Cohen's office, hotel room, and home. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal authorities investigating the $130,000 hush-money payment Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen paid her just before the 2016 election. Daniels has said the money was paid in exchange for her keeping quiet about an affair with Trump. FBI agents raided and seized evidence related to Daniels from Cohen's office and residence on Monday. (CNBC)

5/ In a pair of morning tweets, Trump declared that the raids are "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!" and that "attorney–client privilege is dead!" Attorney-client privilege is intended to encourage open communications between lawyers and their clients, so that lawyers can provide legal advice. The privilege is not absolute and there are exceptions for communications made to further a crime. The FBI would have to demonstrate probable cause to a magistrate judge that evidence of a crime would be found in Cohen's offices, or in a hotel where he was living. "No question, a search warrant for a lawyer is an extraordinary act," Frank Montoya, a former senior FBI official, said. "Everyone involved in this process, including the judge who signed the warrant, understood the scrutiny that would follow its execution. As such, everyone in the process would have done their damnedest to make the warrant as bulletproof as possible." (Reuters / NBC News)

6/ Trump is "less inclined" to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller after the raid on Michael Cohen's office. One source said Trump is "understandably less trusting" of Mueller and his team. (ABC News)

7/ The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is recused from the Michael Cohen investigation. Geoffrey Berman is a Trump appointee with ties to Rudy Giuliani, who donated money to the 2016 Trump campaign. The recusal was approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. (ABC News)

  • Former US Attorney Preet Bharara: The FBI raids were done by officials who were all "handpicked" by Trump. "If the reporting is true, particularly the part about this being approved by the Southern District of New York Attorney's Office which I used to lead, are all people who are Republican, and all people who have basically been handpicked by Donald Trump." (CNN)

8/ Robert Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation to the Trump Organization in 2015 from Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk. The donation by the Ukrainian steel magnate was made in return for a 20-minute video appearance by Trump at a conference in Kiev, and is being investigated as part of Mueller's efforts to examine foreign money Trump and his associates received prior to the election. (New York Times)

9/ Mueller is using the Paul Manafort investigation to probe Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, search warrant documents reveal. Mueller is seeking information from Manafort about foreign political donations and the meeting between top Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives in Trump Tower, in addition to Manafort's interactions with a Russian real estate magnate and possible campaign finance violations. (CNN / Associated Press)

poll/ 25% of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of Trump's job performance. 37% of Americans under 30 who are eligible to vote said they will "definitely be voting" in the midterms, compared to 23% who said the same thing in 2014. And 69% said they want to see Democrats in control, compared with 28 percent who favor Republican control. (Harvard University's Institute of Politics)

poll/ 69% of voters, including 55% of Republicans, oppose Trump firing Mueller. 13% of voters said they support Trump firing Mueller. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Trump's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, resigned at the request of new National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bossert is the second national security official to leave the White House since Bolton began the job on Monday. Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, announced his resignation on Sunday. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  2. Mitch McConnell opened the door to a vote on cutting federal spending and a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Republicans would then need just 50 votes to rescind billions in spending under Senate rules. (Politico)

  3. Trump won't attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, this week as planned. He will, instead, stay in the U.S. and "oversee the American response to Syria." Pence will take Trump's place at the meetings. (Politico / New York Times)

  4. Mike Pompeo asked Hillary Clinton for guidance on how to prepare for the secretary of state confirmation process. Pompeo once called Clinton's response to the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, "morally reprehensible." (Politico)

  5. The chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group met with Trump at the White House to pitch a new broadcasting standard the company is heavily invested in, which would allow authorities to broadcast directly to any American's phone. During the 2016 campaign, David Smith told Trump: "We are here to deliver your message." (The Guardian)

  6. The Russian military has been jamming the GPS systems of U.S. military drones operating in Syria. The Defense Department did not say whether the jamming is causing drones to crash. (NBC News)

  7. The EPA's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, claimed responsibility for the pay raises given to two of Scott Pruitt's top aides. Jackson also said that the pay raises had been reversed. "Administrator Pruitt had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired," Jackson wrote in an email statement. (Bloomberg)

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