Day 462: Extremely opposed.

1/ Ronny Jackson announced that he was withdrawing his name for consideration to be the secretary of Veteran Affairs following allegations that he handed out medication with no patient history, wrote himself prescriptions, and drank on the job. Jackson denied the allegations, including one that he "wrecked a government vehicle" after getting drunk at a Secret Service party, and said they were "completely false and fabricated." He continued: "If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years." (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR)

2/ Trump: I try to "stay away from" intervening in the Justice Department, "but at some point I won't." During Trump's half-hour phone interview on "Fox and Friends" he added: "I have decided I won't be involved. I may change my mind at some point because what is going on is a disgrace. It is an absolute disgrace." (CNN / ABC News / Washington Post)

3/ Jeff Sessions: The Mueller probe has taken on "a life of its own." Sessions defended his decision not to appoint a second special prosecutor to investigate Republicans' concerns about the FBI during a House appropriations budget hearing, saying the Justice Department needed to "be disciplined and stay within our classical procedure and rules" before rushing to hire more special counsels. (Reuters)

4/ Trump is "extremely opposed" to granting Robert Mueller an interview. Trump initially was open to meeting with Mueller, rejecting warnings from his lawyer John Dowd. His willingness to meet with the special counsel has cooled since Dowd resigned in March and investigators raided Michael Cohen's office and residences in April seeking communications between the lawyer and Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election. (Washington Post)

  • Rudy Giuliani met with Mueller to discuss whether Trump will sit for an interview with the special counsel as part of the Russia investigation. After joining Trump's legal team last week, Giuliani signaled his intention to end the Russia investigation within "maybe a couple of weeks," adding that "I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country." (Politico)

5/ Trump admitted that Michael Cohen represented him in the "crazy Stormy Daniels deal," marking the first time Trump has acknowledged that Cohen represented him as part of a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels. The statement by Trump is a "hugely damaging admission," Michael Avenatti, Daniels' attorney, said, and one he plans to use in his case against Trump and Cohen. Earlier this month, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he was not aware of the payment by Cohen to Daniels, saying, "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael." (NBC News / Washington Post / The Hill / Fox News)

6/ Michael Cohen will plead the Fifth Amendment in the lawsuit filed against Trump by Stormy Daniels, allowing Cohen to avoid being deposed and potentially revealing information about the payments Cohen made or helped arrange to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. "I will assert my 5th Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York," Cohen said. Trump proceeded to distance himself from Cohen, saying, "This has nothing to do with me. I've been told I'm not involved." (New York Times / The Hill)

  • Trump told the federal judge overseeing the Cohen investigation that he wants to personally review records seized during raids on Cohen's home and residences earlier this month in order to prevent prosecutors or the FBI from seeing privileged information. The judge already ruled against Trump and Cohen's original request, but said she would be willing to consider their request to have a third party review the records before prosecutors do. (ABC News)

  • A former Manhattan federal judge will determine what materials seized in the Cohen raids are protected by attorney-client privilege. (Politico)

7/ Trump confirmed that he spent the night in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant and accused James Comey of putting "a lot of phony stuff" in his memos, which were released last week. "Of course I stayed there," Trump said. The admission contradicts statements Trump made to Comey on two separate occasions that he never stayed the night at the Ritz-Carlton during the trip, which is why – he claims – there is no way the "golden showers thing" happened. Flight records also confirm that Trump stayed overnight in Moscow. (The Hill / Bloomberg)

8/ The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation to shield Mueller from being fired by Trump. The bill, approved 14-7, would delay any action to fire a special counsel for 10 days and require that three federal judges review the decision. Mitch McConnell said he would not bring the bill to the floor. (Politico / Washington Post)

9/ Trump on his presidency: "I would give myself an A-plus." Asked during a "Fox and Friends" interview how he would grade his presidency, Trump answered by first complaining that the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is a "hoax" and a "witch hunt" orchestrated by Democrats before eventually replying: "I would give myself an A-plus." (The Hill)

poll/ 58% of voters approve of Robert Mueller's conduct so far, saying they believe he has "stayed within the boundaries of the Russia investigation." (The Hill)

poll/ 74% of voters don't want Trump to fire Robert Mueller. 52%, however, say they oppose impeaching Trump if he fires the special counsel. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 71% of voters think Trump will fire Mueller before the investigation is complete. 56% think it's likely that Mueller will find Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses. (Fox News)


Notables.

  1. One of the lobbyists closest to Trump is working for an ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Brian Ballard's firm, Ballard Partners, disclosed last month that it was working with a trading company based in Dubai called ASM International General Trading LLC. ASM is affiliated with a member of Syria's wealthy Foz family, which has close ties to the Assad government. "We're going to do more due diligence,” Ballard said. "We're not the CIA, but if it were to turn out that there was any connection at all, we would withdraw from our representation of the Dubai trading company." Ballard's firm also represents an anti-Assad group. (The Daily Beast)

  2. The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as secretary of state in a 57-to-42 vote. Pompeo was supported by all the Republican senators and by seven Democrats — five of whom face re-election this year in states that Trump won in 2016. (New York Times / Politico)

  3. Paul Ryan pushed out the House chaplain. "As you have requested," Patrick Conroy wrote to Ryan, "I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives." (The Hill)

  4. Trump said he would support swapping the Electoral College for the popular vote, because the latter would make the presidency "much easier to win." (Politico)

  5. The Department of Homeland Security will end the humanitarian protection known as Temporary Protected Status for Nepal with a delay of 12 months to "allow for an orderly transition." (ABC News)

  6. The FBI said it told the White House about the allegations of spousal abuse by Rob Porter in March 2017, contradicting claims made by top Trump administration officials. (New York Times / The Hill)

  7. The House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned Scott Pruitt over allegations of ethical lapses and excessive spending. The ranking member on the committee called Pruitt an "embarrassment to President Trump" and said that if he were president, "I'd just get rid of you." (New York Times / NBC News)

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