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August 4, 2017

On Thursday afternoon, as President Trump was heading to a rally in West Virginia, The Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C., to investigate possible criminal charges against Trump's campaign, business, or administration associates, perhaps even Trump himself, in Mueller's expanding Russia investigation. The grand jury, in place for a few weeks, has already issued subpoenas in connection with Donald Trump Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-backed lawyer, Reuters reports, and CNN says Mueller's investigation has veered into any financial ties Trump, his family, and his associates have to Russia.

The reports set off alarm bells in the White House, because of the increasing legal jeopardy but also out of concern that Trump could make things worse, The Daily Beast reports. In an interview with The New York Times last month, Trump agreed with the idea that Mueller digging into his family's finances would cross a "red line" and be a "violation." If the new reports are accurate, Mueller is well on the other side of that line. "The worry is what the president does now," one senior Trump official told The Daily Beast. "Just keep him off the Twitter and on the teleprompter."

Trump offered a relatively subdued denial at the West Virginia rally, calling the "Russia story" a "total fabrication." But the big concern is that he would order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller — a decision that would set off what one White House adviser called an "apocalyptic sh--storm." Two different bipartisan pairs of senators introduced legislation Thursday to shield Mueller from firing, and two White House officials told The Daily Beast that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would strenuously oppose such a move.

But "people react really stupidly to these proceedings all the time," and "Trump and his team seem incapable, as a matter of character, to react ... in a prudent way or follow good advice or do the things you have to do to survive it," former federal prosecutor Ken White tells The Daily Beast. "They convince other people to lie for them, they destroy documents, they come up with lies they're going to tell themselves, they do all sorts of idiotic things — not realizing part of a fed prosecutor's point is often to drive them to do that." You can read more at The Daily Beast. Peter Weber

October 17, 2018

With the midterms only 20 days away, President Trump has been "sharing his thoughts on a variety of topics," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show, "including his favorite Chinese hoax, climate change." He recapped Trump's argument: "Trump says he doesn't believe in manmade climate change because his uncle was a scientist, and that means Trump has a 'natural instinct' for science. ... That's not how it works. If a pilot has a heart attack, they're never like: 'Is anyone on this plane related to a pilot?!?'"

But the question everyone really wants the answer to, Noah said, is this: "Does Trump believe Saudi Arabia was behind the disappearance and likely murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi?" Trump's critics say he's ignoring coldblooded murder by the Saudis because of money, and Trump seems to agree. "Say what you want about Trump, but he wears his moral bankruptcy on his sleeve," he said.

"President Trump is so eager to protect his possible weapons order that not only has he said, despite evidence, that he believes Saudi Arabia's side of the story, he's also said that they're the real victims here," Noah said, just as he had with a certain Supreme Court justice. "You're going to bring Brett Kavanaugh into this?" he gawked. "I like how Trump's way of dealing with an extremely sensitive issue is to bring in another extremely sensitive issue. He's like, 'Here to discuss school shootings, special guest speaker Bill Cosby!'"

"But you know what's funny?" Noah said. "In many ways, this is like the Kavanaugh situation. Trump says he wants to find out what happened, but in reality, he's already made up his mind. And you might be saying, 'Oh but Trevor, how do you know that the Saudi Arabians killed him? You're not a detective.' And that's true. But my uncle was a detective, so I've got it in my blood." Watch below. Peter Weber

October 17, 2018

During an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is "appropriate and independent," and when everything is over, "the public will have confidence that the cases we brought were warranted by the evidence, and that it was an appropriate use of resources."

He would not speculate on when the investigation might be finished, but did note that the probe has already uncovered a massive effort by Russians to interfere in the election. "I have a solemn responsibility to make sure that cases like that are pursued and prosecuted, and I'm pleased the president has been supportive of that," he said. Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May 2017 after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation.

Rosenstein also would not comment on a report that he suggested secretly recording President Trump, an allegation he has denied, or how that affected their relationship. "The president knows that I am prepared to do this job as long as he wants me to do this job," he said. "You serve at the pleasure of the president, and there's never been any ambiguity about that in my mind." Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

Wednesday was Don McGahn's last day as White House counsel, The Associated Press reports.

A person inside the White House confirmed that McGahn has officially stepped down, after a 21-month tenure. During an interview with AP on Tuesday, President Trump said Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone would replace McGahn, and the president reportedly had a 20-minute farewell meeting with McGahn on Wednesday. McGahn served as the Trump campaign's general counsel, and in August, Trump announced McGahn would leave after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

During his time in the White House, McGahn pushed for young conservatives to fill the Supreme Court, and reportedly threatened to quit in 2017 when Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He also cooperated with the Mueller investigation, sitting for about 30 hours of interviews. Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

While President Trump has been adamant about waiting for an investigation to take place before making any judgments, Rudy Giuliani told The Washington Post on Wednesday many senior members of the administration concluded last week that the Saudis ordered the murder of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and Turkey has said he was murdered inside the building by 15 Saudi agents. Turkish officials say they have an audio recording that proves Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, and U.S. officials have said privately they do not doubt this account, the Post reports. There is no definitive proof that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, but there's also no reason to think he did not plan the operation, U.S. officials said.

The Trump administration and Saudi royal family are now trying to come up with an explanation for what happened that does not implicate the crown prince, the Post reports. U.S. intelligence reportedly discovered before Khashoggi's disappearance that the crown prince was trying to lure him from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia, and he told friends he did not trust overtures he was receiving from people inside the Saudi government.

Trump speculated earlier this week that "rogue killers" were behind Khashoggi's suspected death, and on Wednesday became defensive, telling reporters he's "not giving cover" to the crown prince. Giuliani, Trump's adviser and lawyer, told the Post "the only question is, was it directed from the crown prince or the king — or was it a group that was trying to please him?" He added, "I know the bloom is off the rose with the crown prince." Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

Investigators from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office have been peppering Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, with questions about his longtime friend and onetime business partner, Roger Stone, several people with knowledge of the matter told ABC News on Wednesday.

Stone served as a political adviser to Trump, and once ran a lobbying firm with Manafort. Manafort recently pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in Washington, D.C., and was found guilty of financial crimes in Virginia, and is now one of Mueller's cooperating witnesses. Mueller appears to be focusing on whether Stone or his associates communicated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, before it released emails meant to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Stone made several statements before the emails were released that seemed to show he knew WikiLeaks was going to publish the information, and close to a dozen of his associates have been interviewed by Mueller's team, with many also appearing before a federal grand jury. Stone told ABC News he's known Manafort since childhood, and is "highly confident" his friend "is aware of no wrongdoing on my part during the 2016 campaign, or at any other time, and therefore there is no wrongdoing to know about." Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

The Judy Blume classic Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was first published in 1970, and after decades of turning down producers, the author has agreed to turn the book into a movie.

Blume granted the rights to producer James L. Brooks and Kelly Fremon Craig, who collaborated on the 2016 movie The Edge of Seventeen. Fremon Craig will adapt and direct Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, a book that she told Deadline is "a right of passage for women and girls."

Margaret is a sixth grader dealing with moving from New York City to New Jersey, her parents having different faiths, making new friends, boys, and the changes that come with growing up. "It's rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn't read it and every time I've mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp," Fremon Craig said. "There's something so timely and full of truth, and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you're lost and searching and unsure." She has just started working on the screenplay, and said Blume sent her an email saying "if someone were to make a film of one of her books, she hoped it would have the same tone and feeling that The Edge of Seventeen had." Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

At least 19 students were killed and 53 wounded in a shooting at a vocational school in Crimea on Wednesday.

Of the wounded, 12 are in serious condition. Police say the suspect, 18-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov, killed himself inside the Kerch Polytechnic College library. He was described as a "shy loner," The Associated Press reports, and local officials said he just recently was granted a permit to own a shotgun and only a few days ago purchased 150 cartridges. Sergei Aksyonov, regional leader of Crimea, said Roslyakov was "walking around and shooting students and teachers in cold blood."

There was confusion throughout the day, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying at one point the victims all died in an explosion at the same time Russia's Investigative Committee said the students were all shot. Explosive devices were found on campus. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and this is Russia's greatest loss of life in an act of school violence since the three-day school siege in Beslan in 2004, which left 333 people dead. Catherine Garcia

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